So you’re fastidious when it comes to germs. You are careful to wash your hands during flu season to avoid getting sick, and you don’t even think twice about washing after using the restroom. Once your hands are clean, you routinely go to the only available option to dry your hands: the electric dryer hanging in the restroom you use at work / the gym/ the mall / in whatever public place you happen to be when nature calls. All good, right? Well… not so fast. You might want to brace yourself (but preferably not with your hands…).
According to the American Society for Microbiology, those hand dryers that have been billed as excellent for the environment because they cut back on paper waste might not be so great for our health. In fact, they have been shown to suck up bacteria that is floating in the air, heat it up, and then spray it all over the room (and your newly washed hands). Do you know what kind of bacteria might be floating around the air in a public restroom? You guessed it: poop.
Yes, that eco-friendly hand dryer is spraying your hands and clothes with poo. The problem is that when a toilet without a lid is flushed, there is so much momentum that the contents of said toilet tend to fly around the room and hang out. Until, of course, they’re sucked into a hand dryer. The study, which looked at the bathrooms in scientific research areas in an academic health center, found the unfortunate result of the dryers: “These results indicate that many kinds of bacteria, including potential pathogens and spores, can be deposited on hands exposed to bathroom hand dryers and that spores could be dispersed throughout buildings and deposited on hands by hand dryers.”
So the next time you have the option of either a hand dryer or paper towels, you might want to opt for the latter. And if you happen to be near someone using one of those dryers, duck for cover.