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Jet Air Hand Dryers

With so many people on the roads these next few months and perhaps using the jet air hand dryers at the rest stops or businesses, here is some interesting information that I gleaned from the FOOD FOR THOUGHT, WY Dept. of Ag:  Consumer Health Services Division, Spring, 2016, issue article that was written by Alexandra Ossola. 

Spreading Germs

“Those jet hand dryers might dry your hands super fast and make you feel like you’re living in the future, but they might be making others around you sick.  A study published in January in the Journal of Applied Microbiology compared the dispersal of viruses when people dry their hands with paper towels, warm air dryers, and jet dryers, and found that jet air dryers were by far the worst offenders, spraying 1,300 times more viral plaques (clumps of viruses) than paper towels, and sending some of them nearly 10 feet from the dry itself.”

“The study was reported on by various outlets this week, such as the Independent and the Guardian.  This is the most recent of a number of studies on the issue, and jet dryer manufacturers can give plenty of reasons to take its findings with a grain of salt.”

Looking Further

“In the study, the researchers asked participants to dip their gloved hands into a solution of a harmless virus called MS2.  After giving their hands a quick shake, the participants tried one of the three drying methods.  The researchers then collected samples from the air, and from surfaces (petri dishes placed before the experiment) at different distances from where the drying procedure occurred.  The jet air dryer was far and away the worst offender, spreading more viruses farther.”

“These differences in results between the three hand-drying devices can be largely explained by their mode of drying the hand.”  The researchers weren’t surprised by their findings.  “These differences in results between the three hand-drying devices can be largely explained by their mode of drying the hands,” they write.  That would make a big difference in places where it’s essential to avoid disease transmission, like in hospitals.”

“It’s important to note that the study didn’t test how well the different drying methods distribute bacteria, which are much larger and can also cause disease.”

Other Studies

“Previous studies, such as one conducted by the same researchers in 2014, have stirred controversy about just how clean jet dryers are.  After the 2014 study was published, Dyson spokespeople noted that the participants’ hands were more covered with viruses than they would be in a real-world scenario, and claim that paper towels are covered with germs from previous users.  In 2008, the Royal Society for Public Health gave Dyson Airblade, one of the most common jet dryers, an accreditation for hygiene.  Another Dyson spokesperson accused scientists of “scaremongering” and have previously complied that the research is being funded by the paper towel industry.”

“Don’t expect full clarity on this issue anytime soon – the fight is a dirty one for whose products are the most hygienic.  Just wash your hands well and, no matter which drying technique you use, look on the bright side:  a few more germs could boost your immune system.”

Exponential Growth

As you probably know, I visit area first grade classes to teach them the proper way to wash their hands.  Then second graders are shown Skittles that represent a ‘germ’ and how quickly they grow from 1 little Skittle (aka ‘germ’) in to 512 ‘germs’ in three hours and in to 16,777,216 ‘germs’ in eight hours, which is 32,768 times the number of germs there were in three hours.  When you put that in to school time, that 1 germ grew to 512 germs in just the time the students started school until they ate lunch.  Extrapolate that into the number of germs that first germ would have grown in to by the time the students go home for their after-school snack, and it is AMAZING!

Another example of how germs spread is done by spraying water from a bottle.  The students are amazing how far a ‘germ’ of water can travel if they don’t properly sneeze into the crook of their arm.  These little tricks certainly do get across the point that it is important to wash your hands with warm water and soap, and that it takes 20 seconds (sing the ABC song) of friction to get rid of those germs.  Now research is showing that using those jet air dryers really isn’t that good of an idea as just plain using a paper towel and properly disposing of it.

Gender and accessibility neutral washroom sign

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Extension Educator:
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

University of Wyoming Extension

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Extension Educator:
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Issued in furtherance of extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kelly Crane, Director, University of Wyoming Extension, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming Extension, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071.

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