There is a new study out that claims that the air dryers you find in public restrooms can blow urine and fecal matter on your hands. Apparently, when you use the toilet, small particles of urine and fecal materials can fly through the air and the hand dryers suck in that air, heats it and blows the particles all over your hands. So, does that mean if they don’t have paper towels, you are better off not washing your hands? Apparently so says the study, which is titled “Deposition of Bacteria and Bacterial Spores by Bathroom Hot-Air Hand Dryers.” Just when you thought it was safe to use the bathroom.
The study, published by the American Society for Microbiology, did microbial surveys of bathrooms at the University of Connecticut to find out whether hot-air hand dryers draw in microbes and then blow them back out. The findings were gross — really gross.
“The full cycle goes like this: when you flush a toilet that doesn’t have a lid, the turbulence of the flush sends fecal particles into the air, where they hover in a miasmic cloud; when the dryers switch on, they pull these particles in through their intake, heat them up, and spray them onto your moist hands and other moist, hospitable surfaces where their bacteria can thrive,” BoingBoing reported.
Said the study:
S533 “was almost certainly dispersed throughout bathrooms in the research areas as spores, which would easily survive desiccation in room air, as well as the elevated temperatures in hand dryer air; however, growing or stationary-phase bacteria would not be nearly so hardy as spores,” the authors note. “However, the facile dispersion of one bacterial strain throughout a research facility should probably be a concern to risk assessors and risk managers when dispersion of potentially pathogenic bacteria is considered.”
In a final test, the researchers did a cursory look at some of the other bacteria the dryers were blowing around. They found that with or without a HEPA filter, the blowers stirred up potential pathogens, including Staphylococcus aureus.
I guess we’d better start carrying towels with us stored in closed plastic bags.