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New evidence suggests electric hand dryers in public toilets pose health risk
Date:3/2/2009

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  • the jet air dryer, which blows air out of the unit at claimed speeds of 400 mph, was capable of blowing micro-organisms from the hands and the unit and potentially contaminating other washroom users and the washroom environment up to 2 metres away
  • use of a warm air hand dryer spread micro-organisms up to 0.25 metres from the dryer
  • paper towels showed no significant spread of micro-organisms.

The results will come as a surprise to many people. Consumers, healthcare institutions and businesses such as restaurants have often been told over the years that electric hand dryers are the most hygienic way to dry the hands after washing them. It's a message which seems to have sunk in: a recent consumer survey found 58% of people in the UK thought electric hand dryers were more hygienic than both textile-based towels and paper towels (1) .

The reality, however, could not be more different, with the University of Westminster research results suggesting people could even be putting themselves at increased risk of illness by using dryers.

Keith Redway, a Senior Academic in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Westminster, said: "The results of all parts of this study suggest that the use of warm air dryers and jet air dryers should be carefully considered in locations where hygiene is of paramount importance, such as hospitals, clinics, schools, nurseries, care homes, kitchens and other food preparation areas."

"In addition, paper hand towel use is highly beneficial for improved hygiene in any other facilities open to the public, such as factories, offices, bars and restaurants."

He added: "Using paper towels results in a significant decrease in the numbers of bacteria on the hands, a clear advantage compared with the increases observed for both t
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