Spreading Germs and Fear

Don’t take the clickbait: Hand dryers are as safe and effective as other drying methods.

This just in: if you swallow chewing gum, it doesn’t take six years to digest. And you can’t catch a cold going outside in cold weather with wet hair. Similarly, recent urban myth-type stories about hand dryers being germ-spreaders are about as valid as a dog’s mouth being cleaner than a human mouth. Don’t take the clickbait.

Dig deeper and you’ll see these sensational stories feature misleading, unsubstantiated and negative information surrounding hand dryers and COVID-19. This misinformation campaign is spreading unwarranted fear. So, some top researchers decided to have a closer look.

A research team from the University of Arizona conducted an exhaustive two-year review to uncover which hand-drying method—air hand-dryers or paper towels—is more hygienic and safer relative to human infection risks. This study is considered the most comprehensive review of its kind because it included currently available data, published studies, news reports and online content.

So, what did they find? Most of the clickbait articles are based on biased—and faulty—research. They also discovered that most if not all were funded by the paper towel industry.

This landmark “study of the studies,” published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, revealed only 23 of nearly 300 studies originally considered were scientfically qualified to be examined further.

“What’s better? Using paper towels or electric hand dryers? This has been a question that’s been debated for a long time,” notes Kelly Reynolds, director of the Environment, Exposure Science and Risk Assessment Center at the University of Arizona’s Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

“In conducting our research,” Reynolds added, “we found no data to support any human health claims that support one hand drying method over another or support paper towels over hand dryers. Some study authors extended generalizable recommendations without sufficient scientific evidence. The fact is, the breadth of data available does not favor one hand drying method as being more hygienic or safer.”

Hand hygiene is a frequently covered media topic during the coronavirus pandemic. But, as we’ve seen, media reports often tantalize with sensational headlines designed to attract attention and viewership. These teasing headlines may increase traffic, but they can also overgeneralize or exaggerate research results.

This investigation “clears the air” with certainty. In fact, several recent statements and studies from the world’s foremost health authorities substantiate the real story. The Mayo Clinic stated, “…there is no difference in bacteria counts when drying with paper towels or hand dryers.” And, the World Health Organization added, “We have no evidence that hand dryers are spreading the coronavirus…”

With hand hygiene playing a life-and-death role during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to understand the complete story about hand dryers and paper towels.

Science has proven that touchless, sensor-activated, hands-under, high-speed, energy-efficient hand drying is absolutely a hygienic way to dry hands after washing—and is an extremely efficient option, as well.

And, remember, you can’t “tip” a cow over when they’re sleeping—because they sleep lying down. Now you know.

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