As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I like to get my geek on. Thankfully I was alone in my office when I squealed in delight after reading a Letter to the Editor in the October Special Edition of the Journal of Hospital Infection. The letter talked about a pilot study comparing the level of microbial contamination found in hospital washrooms when paper towel or hand dryers were used.
I HATE hand dryers. While I try darn hard to be environmentally conscious and sit on our company’s Green Team, when it comes to drying my hands I have no qualms about the number of trees needed to be cut down to make paper towels. Why? Because there is enough evidence to show that hand dryers impede hand hygiene and as this study shows when looking at microbial contamination washrooms (restrooms) with hand dryers had higher levels of microbial contamination than washrooms that used paper towel.
Some may be questioning my comment about hand dryers impeding hand hygiene, but back in 2012 guest author Prof. Todd from Michigan State University discussed a survey where researchers found that hand dryers, because they can only accommodate a person at a time and can take up to >1 minute to adequately dry hands, can lead to avoidance of their use, incomplete drying of the hands or worse, wiping clean hands on clothes….. I will admit there has been more than one occasion where along my travels I have encountered either a line up to get to a hand dryer or gave up on getting my hands dried due to insufficient air flow and/or heat.
In this particular study, the researchers sampled 2 washrooms within one hospital over a period of 3 months. Their sampling regime included air sampling, environmental sampling of 5 locations and collecting dust samples. In reviewing the data, significant differences and trends were seen. In the washroom that utilized paper towels lower microbial levels were found whereas in the washroom that employed the hand dryer the microbial contamination was higher, had a greater range of bacteria and in general the floor, the hand dryer and the dust samples were more heavily contaminated.
I knew there was a reason I had such a loathing for hand dryers….this study simply continues to build upon my bias towards the need to ban their use. The fact that WHO advocates to dry hands thoroughly on a single use towel strengthens my resolve to avoid the use of hand dryers at all costs!
PS – I know more investigation is needed, but for me the proof is in the