Bathroom Hand Dryers Spew Fecal Matter

Scientists say bathroom hand dyers collect and spread bacteria

Washing your grubby mitts is one of the best ways to cut your chances of getting sick and spreading harmful germs to others, but a new study may make you think twice before you use air hand dryers in public restrooms.

According to an abstract, scientists exposed a plate to a hand dryer for 30 seconds and saw an average of 18 to 60 colonies of bacteria per plate.

Spore-forming colonies, identified as B. subtilis PS533, averaged ∼2.5 to 5% of bacteria deposited by hand dryers throughout the basic research areas examined regardless of distance from the spore-forming laboratory, and these were nearly certainly deposited as spores.

Additionally, "spores could be dispersed throughout buildings and deposited on hands by hand dryers". The results were published this month in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

The study examined 36 bathrooms at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, testing each machine during a single drying session.

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"Bacteria in bathrooms will come from feces, which can be aerosolized a bit when toilets, especially lidless toilets, are flushed", study author Peter Setlow told Newsweek.

A study by the scientists at the University of CT found hand dryers in men's and women's bathrooms blew bacteria onto hands including fecal matter. "The more air ya move?" Researchers said the HEPA filters helped decrease but not eliminate the bacteria.

"Within a large building, potentially pathogenic bacteria including bacterial spores may travel between rooms", the authors wrote in their research paper.

The team found PS533 in every bathroom tested. Dryers could act as "reservoir" for bacteria, they suggested, or perhaps their intense blowing simply provides more exposure to the already contaminated air.

For now, Setlow is sticking to paper towels-as is the University of CT, which has added them to all 36 bathrooms surveyed in the study.

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