Those bathroom hand dryers may save a lot of trees over the duration of their use, but they also have a majorly gross and unexpected side effect according to one new study.
The same hand dryers found in public restrooms across the country are actually picking up feces particles and spraying them onto your hands, a new study published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology has found.
For anyone who thought these eco-friendly dryers are safer than paper towels, you may want to think again. As many as 60 different bacterial colonies can be blown out of the machines in just one 30-second drying session, CBS Local’s Philadelphia station reported.
“The more air ya move? The more bacteria stick,” the study’s author Peter Setlow said to Business Insider. “And there are a lot of bacteria in bathrooms.”
During the experiment 36 different bathrooms at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine were studied, testing each individual machine during one particular drying session.
Many of the samples tested contained staphylococcus aureus, which is a bacteria found commonly in the body that is capable of causing serious infections. The researchers found fewer of these particles when the machines were not in use.
The study, which can be read in full here, is said to be especially important considering that there has been little information published on the type of bacteria dispersed by these hand dryers.
“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 the organisms dispersed by hand dryers,” the study said.
“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,” the study concluded.
But if the study is in fact correct, the blowing of fecal bacteria by these dryers may be a concern on par with the infamous “toilet plume,” a phenomenon in which toilets are capable of spraying feces particles and other germs up to 15 feet in the air during each flush.
According to the CBS article the UConn School of Medicine is taking precautions by trading in the bacteria-spreading dryers for regular paper towels. Scientists recommend always closing the lid before flushing any toilet, the article continued, and other health professionals have recommended storing toothbrushes and other sensitive toiletry items below the sink in order to prevent them from coming into contact with these bacteria showers.
Reactions to the news on Facebook were strong, with the story reaching the number one spot on the list of trending topics and many people commenting with their own stories of using the public restroom.
Some said they always do their best to avoid using public toilets and have always instinctively known that something wasn’t quite right with the hand dryers, while others called the news “needless hysteria” and said that they weren’t overly concerned about this type of bacteria in the air.
For more information on the study, you can click on this link.