#WorldToiletDay: Use of hand dryers poses a health hazard, reveals study

If you’re a germophobe who wants to use a public bathroom ever again, you might want to stop reading this. Because it turns out, while bathroom hand dryers can be more environmental than paper towels, they can also be a whirlpool of faecal matter

Image courtesy: Birmingham Mail (UK)
Image courtesy: Birmingham Mail (UK)

You might not know it, but when someone flushes an open toilet, little bits of poop and bacteria can be thrown as high as 15 feet (4.5 metres) into the air.

As if that’s not gross enough, now a new study has found that those little bits of poop and bacteria can be sucked up by warm hand dryers and blown straight onto your freshly washed hands.

Nowadays, toilets at the airport, five-star hotels, and cities washrooms are fitted with fancy hand dryers. After washing our hands we quickly, hold our hands under the dryer for a few seconds and move away. We all must have done this a number of times. But, wait, are the hot air hand-dryers safe to use?

A study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, suggests that the hot air hand-dryers disperse bacteria on our hands and the body. In order to study, the scientist had put a plate under the hand-dryers.

The study findings state:

  • The plates are exposed to the hand-dryers for 30 seconds, averaged 18 to 60 colonies
  • Plates are exposed to bathroom air for 2 minutes with hand dryers off averaged ≤1 colony
  • And, the plates are exposed to the bathroom air for 20 minutes, moved by a small fan had average 15 colonies.

The scientist suggests, while there was evidence that the bathroom hand-dryers can disperse bacteria from hands and deposit them on the surface, including recently washed hands, but there was little evidence on, the organisms dispersed by the hand-dryers or if hand dryers provide a reservoir of bacteria or simply blow large amounts of bacterially contaminated air

My Medical Mantra spoke to general physicians and experts weather hand dryers are safe or not.

Dr Madhukar Gaikwad, Medical Superintendent of the state-run St George hospital said, “Nowadays, hand-dryers are used at a number of places. But, due to the use of hand-dryers, there is a chance that bacteria can stick to your hand. Toilets have a huge quantity of bacteria, and when you use the dryers they stick on to your hand. These bacteria can cause disease as well.”

A general physician from Nerul, Navi Mumbai, Dr Sandeep Sonawane said, “Air in the toilet is contaminated. So, the bacteria can stay at one place for a longer period of time. These bacteria can stick on to the hands easily. If the cleanliness in the toilet is not maintained properly, then it is likely that more the bacteria can spread. It is necessary that the filter attached to the hand-dryer should be change periodically.”