The more articles I read, the more I’m convinced that the toilet is no longer the sole source of fecal particles (i.e., poop).
We’ve already talked about how you’re better off having a toilet seat next to your face rather than your smartphone. (Hello, staphyloccocus.) And now, there’s another unlikely culprit for spreading germs from beyond the water closet: the hand dryer.
I know, I’m just as confused as you are, but let’s break this down, shall we?
Scientists recently compared normal bathroom air to the sort blasted by hand dryers in public toilets and found that bacteria develops far more rapidly within the latter. In a study published in this month’s Applied and Environmental Microbiology journal, it was revealed that dryers suck up bathroom air and then spew it out just as quickly onto your hands as you dry them.
This should be just fine, except that the air in public bathrooms is often teeming with aerosolized poop particles that are launched into the air whenever someone flushes the toilet without closing the lid first. Factor in the skin microbes shed by hordes of people as they pop in and out of the loo, and you’ve got quite a disgusting, albeit microscopic, picture.
Shocking as these findings are, they’re not entirely new. About two months ago, a scientist named Nichole Ward stuck a petri dish in a public bathroom’s enclosed hand dryer for just three minutes (!), and found several strains of pathogenic fungi and bacteria growing on the surface after only three days. E.coli, which can trigger nasty bouts of diarrhea and vomiting, was one of them. The post has since gone viral and warned readers not to use hand dryers ever again.
But wait, there’s more. Whenever you pop your hands underneath or into those warm, toasty dryers, you aren’t just blasting poop sprinkles onto them – you’re also spraying them right back into the air and beyond the bathroom. Hand dryers, it seems, also help disperse spores throughout buildings whenever they operate. That goes for all public bathrooms, even the ones in the swankiest malls or hotels with gleaming surfaces and chicly uniformed bathroom attendants who spray the space with disinfectants that smell like some sort of essential oil blend hand-mixed by virgins in the south of France. (It’s not like the 1% don’t take dumps, right?)
Basically, washing your hands and then putting them through the dryers defeats the purpose of the former. Adding high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters did block about 75% of the bacteria, but do you really want to take that 25% chance of ending up with food poisoning?
Right, looks like we’re sticking to paper towels for the time-being then.