Bathroom Hand Dryers Spew Fecal Matter

Leslie Hanson
April 14, 2018

UConn's School of Medicine has already begun to trade in the bacteria-spreading dryers for regular paper towels and scientists recommend always closing the lid before flushing any toilet. The results were published this month in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Hand dryers are great environmentally friendly inventions, right? "The more bacteria stick", study author Peter Setlow tells Business Insider. Colonies of that strain made up about 2-5% of the bacteria found on the air-blasted plates, regardless of how far the specific bathroom was from the lab where such spores were made. "And there are a lot of bacteria in bathrooms".

IMPORTANCE While there is evidence that bathroom hand dryers can disperse bacteria from hands or deposit bacteria on surfaces, including recently washed hands, there is less information on (i) the organisms dispersed by hand dryers, (ii) whether hand dryers provide a reservoir of bacteria or simply blow large amounts of bacterially contaminated air, and (iii) whether bacterial spores are deposited on surfaces by hand dryers.

It is not clear whether the dryers are harbouring the bacteria inside, or pushing it out at a concentrated rate. 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. Although that's a lot, it certainly isn't flawless.


Researchers examined plates exposed to just 30 seconds of a hand dryer compared to those left in, you know, just plain feces-filled air.

"Perhaps the filters weren't working properly, or the large air column below the hand dryers was sucking in bacteria from unfiltered air adjacent to the forced air column", Setlow, who is a professor at the University of CT, explained.

For now, Setlow is sticking to paper towels-as is the University of CT, which has added them to all 36 bathrooms surveyed in the study.

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