Have you ever avoided using public washrooms because of the thought of unclean toilet seats and germy door handles? If so, then you’re probably not going to like this news. There’s a new germ-haven to look out for when entering a public bathroom: hand-dryers.
Yes! You heard it right. Hand dryers are another unsanitary aspect of public bathrooms people need to be aware of. Researchers from the University of Connecticut found a pretty gross connection between bacterial viruses and hand dryers.
Researchers: Public Hand-Dryers Spread More Germs Than We Thought
Researchers at the University of Connecticut placed petri dishes either underneath hand dryers or in a neutral location in every washroom of the institution. After doing so, the group tallied the results and found that the plates that were exposed to normal air in a bathroom setting produced only one bacterial colony, while plates visible to hand dryers found approximately 18 to 60 bacterial colonies!
In the end, the team of researchers concluded that people who use hand dryers to accomplish their hygienic goals are are actually exposed to bacteria such as pathogens and spores. They did note, however, that it probably isn’t a concern for most people. Rather, people with weakened immune systems such as children, seniors, and those with immune-compromising conditions are most at risk of getting sick from hand-dryer bacteria.
Hand-dryers vs. Paper Towels: Which Is Better?
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Hand-dryers are usually seen as a technological advancement of sorts due to it being a more efficient method of drying hands than paper products, while still encouraging proper hygiene. But the recent study on hand-dryers does raise some questions as to whether paper towels actually the more hygienic route.
The Advantages of Hand Dryers
- Saves paper and environmentally beneficial in that it can get rid of 5-15% of non-recyclable wastes
- Low maintenance except for when it needs cleaning
The Disadvantages of Hand-Dryers
- Hand dryers contain filters that need weekly cleaning and if it is not cleaned, bacteria begins to form, leading air to pick up the bacteria and cause washrooms to become dirtier
- Bacteria from waste that is flushed is sucked up by hand dryers and blown into people’s hands once they use it
Some researchers argue that the jury is still out on hand dryers’ ick factor. They say that fecal matter isn’t actually “sucked up” by the device itself but, instead ends up gathering bacteria from people’s poor hand-washing practices (that person who doesn’t actually use soap when they wash their hands? Turns out, there’s a lot of them).
Either way… no thanks!
The Advantages of Paper towels
- Physically wiping the hands with towels instead of using a device means more bacteria is actually disposed of
- Using paper towels to open doors and other contaminated areas can prevent one from catching viruses
Disadvantages of Paper towels
- What people use the paper towel for is a wild card. Used paper towels that are thrown in an open garbage bin (or an overflowing one) leave a window of opportunity for bacteria to be spread air-borne
(Although, a study conducted by the Mayo clinic in 2000 concluded that paper cloths, paper towels, warm-forced-air dryer and “spontaneous room air evaporation” had the same effect in removing bacteria and that no one means was superior to the other.)
Ultimately, the choice is yours! Whether it seems better to you to brave the proverbial storm of hand dryers, to use paper towels to dry your hands and open the door (and never look back), or maybe just wipe your hands on your jeans, just please… don’t skip the handwashing altogether!
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