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You May Be Spreading Viruses By Using Hand Dryers

A study reports that, if it's a matter of stopping the spread of potentially harmful organisms, using paper towels is the best way to dry your hands
by Mary Rose A. Hogaza | May 2, 2016
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We use hand dryers to, well, dry our hands after washing off germs. However, a new study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology found out that these devices might actually be spreading more germs.

The research team, led by Professor Mark Wilcox, a consultant microbiologist from the University of Leeds' Faculty of Medicine And Health, came up with this conclusion after comparing three hand drying methods: jet air dryer, regular air dryer and paper towel.

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In their study, they used a virus called "MS2" to protect the health of the participants who'll undergo the experiment as this particular bacterium doesn't make people ill.

According to a report from Ars Technica, researchers carried out their study by dipping their hands in water containing MS2 before drying them with the three hand drying methods. Results showed that using a jet dryer (specifically the brand Dyson Airblade) spread 60 times more viruses than a regular air dryer and 1,300 times more germs than paper towels.

Not all of the organisms on your hands are eliminated even after proper hand-washing. These organisms, which can range from benign to harmful, can spread during the hand drying process. In their studies, the blast of air from the dryers apparently spread them at a much higher rate. The bigger the amount of viruses that spread in the air, the bigger the chances that it can cling to a new host—a.k.a. that guy who was peeing next to you or that kid who's still washing his hands. 

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For further proof, the researchers also analyzed the bathroom for the virus after the hand drying. The jet dryer, which dries hands by blasting them with air at 430 mph, spread the virus within a three-meter radius across the bathroom. On the other hand, the regular dryer spread the virus 75 centimeters around while paper hand towels contained the virus within 25 centimeters.

"These findings are important for understanding the ways in which bacteria spread, with the potential to transmit illness and disease," Wilcox said.

"Next time you dry your hands in a public toilet using an electric hand dryer, you may be spreading bacteria without knowing it. You may also be splattered with bugs from other people's hands," he noted.

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