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Study: Restroom air dryers spread bacteria through the air

iStock | Nick Free

iStock | Nick Free

As a nurse, you wash your hands countless times every day. But is the way you’re drying your hands contributing to the spread of germs? It could be: Using jet air dryers in public bathrooms can spread 27 times the germs compared to using paper towels.

This news comes from a new study from scientists at the University of Leeds that counted germs in the air in public restrooms around jet air dryers, warm air dryers and paper towels. The count of bacteria in the air around jet air dryers was 4.5 times higher than around warm air dryers.

Additionally, the bacteria stayed in the air much longer than the 15 seconds that the drying actually took. In fact, around half of the original bacteria in the air just after drying was still in the air five minutes after drying. Scientists say this information is important to understanding how bacteria spreads on a larger scale.

“These findings are important for understanding the ways in which bacteria spread, with the potential to transmit illness and disease,” said the lead researcher, professor Mark Wilcox, in a release about the study.

The researchers applied a harmless bacteria to their hands and measured the air after drying with the various forms of drying methods. The bacteria used was a kind not normally found in bathrooms so all traces in the air would be from the study.

“Next time you dry your hands in a public toilet using an electric hand dryer, you may be spreading bacteria without knowing it,” Wilcox also said. “You may also be splattered with bugs from other people’s hands.”

What type of hand dryers do you prefer at your workplace?

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