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Hand dryers do not spread COVID-19: The scientific evidence
15 April 2020
COVID19 is bringing with it widespread speculation, scare mongering and rumours about hand dryers. Intelligent Hand Dryers and Intelligent Facility Solutions dispel some of these myths.
One of the rumours circulating around Coronavirus is that hand dryers are unsafe to use, another is that hand dryers kill the Coronavirus - neither are the case. However, avoiding hand dryers and leaving hands wet or wiping them dry on clothing is unsafe.
COVID19 can remain viable for hours to days on clothing and it’s common knowledge that damp and wet hands accelerate the transfer of germs more easily.
According to Yale Medical School: “Moisture is a good breeding ground for bacteria, which makes drying your hands an important step; dry your hands completely under a warm air dryer, or use a paper towel.” Yet, according to Mitsubishi, one of the globe’s leading manufacturers of hand dryers and holders of the NSF169 protocol for healthcare and food production hygiene, less than half of people dry their hands properly after washing, causing bacteria to spread in the washroom which can heavily impact public health.
With this in mind, several leading hand dryer firms have gathered scientific evidence to dispel the myths that hand dryers are unhygienic in a bid to ensure the public is carrying out the complete hand washing and drying process to the World Health Organization’s standards: “to protect yourself against the new Coronavirus, you should frequently clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Once your hands are cleaned, you should dry them thoroughly by using paper towels or a warm air dryer.”
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), WHO and scientists at John Hopkins University have all categorically confirmed in the USA press that hand dryers do not spread Coronavirus. In fact, several in-depth, independent studies not conducted or funded by the paper towel or hand dryer industries over the last 30 years have shown that there is no significant difference in the hygiene between paper towel use and hand dryers).
What’s more, CDC is also on record stating: “While some recommendations include using a paper towel to turn off the faucet after hands have been rinsed, this practice leads to increased use of water and paper towels, and there are no studies to show that it improves health.”
Yale Medical School said: "Since threats like COVID-19 can lead to the circulation of misinformation, it’s important to trust information only from reputable health organisations and government sources such as the CDC and the WHO."
Excel Dryer, manufacturer of hand dryers, including the XLERATOR, added: “The practice of proper hand washing is so important that CDC has dubbed it a 'do-it-yourself vaccine'.” Recommended is washing with soap and water, or an antiseptic, with a minimum of 60% alcohol concentration as an alternate. CDC does not expressly recommend one hand drying method over another which aligns with results of The Mayo Clinic’s significant study on the topic, which found “no statistically significant differences in the efficiency of four different hand-drying methods for removing bacteria from washed hands.” This includes air dryers and paper towels.
The washing and drying process
James Marvin, research manager at Intelligent Facility Solutions, a UK-based global distributor of commercial hand dryers commented: “Independent scientific research and global organisations that specialise in limiting the spread of diseases all inform us that the most important aspect of hand hygiene is the washing process to actually remove germs, then making sure they are fully dry before touching anything else.”
Airdri Hand Dryers, a leading hand drying development specialist, noted: “There has been a recent wave of media interest in the hygiene impact of hand dryers versus single use paper towels (and to a lesser extent cotton towels) in public washrooms.
"This follows on from some recent research from the University of Leeds (UK), published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, which was commissioned and paid for by the European Tissue Symposium, an industry body entirely funded by the paper towel manufacturers.
"This is not the first time that such studies have been commissioned by the paper towel manufacturers over the past 20 years, and, in each case, they have been followed by media campaigns that consistently draw inaccurate conclusions in search of attractive Headlines.”
Neither is a harmful method of drying, yet it doesn't follow logic that paper towels can be considered a more sterile and hygienic choice over hand dryers since paper towels and their dispensers are not made in sterile areas and they live in the same washrooms hand dryers do and subject to the same levels of cross contaminations. In fact, a recent study commissioned by Dyson even raised the question of whether “grabbing a paper towel in a public washroom may leave you with more on your hands then you bargained for.”
The most important aspect of hand hygiene
That said, truly independent and credible scientific studies conducted over the years prove that the most important aspect of hand hygiene is, and remains to be, thorough hand washing and drying with your preferred or available method.
Andrew Cameron, founder of Intelligent Facility Solutions, concluded: “In the midst of the current pandemic, the most responsible and honest message that both industries should be putting out there, and that we are happy to say, is that to not wash and dry your hands thoroughly is a public health risk - and that either paper towels or hand dryers, but not clothing, are safe and hygienic way to dry your hands.”
In the case of hand dryers killing COVID19, this misapprehension may well stem from the fact that the air temperature inside some dryers can reach levels above that found to kill the SARS Coronavirus, however the air is cooler once it reaches the hands.
To conclude, the electric Hand Dryer Association (eHA) said in a recent press release: “Electric hand drying has major advantages compared to other ways of drying hands. They are highly efficient and, thanks to HEPA-filters and anti-bacterial coatings, a very hygienic hand drying choice. They also provide considerable environmental benefits when compared to the use of paper towels and are hugely economically advantageous.
"During the current COVID-19 global crisis, it is imperative that we all adhere to a strict hand washing and hand drying routine and that we follow the guidance of the WHO in order ensure that we do this effectively. This will play a vital role in helping to contain the spread of the virus. Of course, no device can kill the virus however we can all play our part responsibly while we await the development of a vaccine.”
For a more in depth analysis of the scientific literature regarding paper towels and hand dryers please read https://www.intelligenthanddryers.com/blog/hand-dryers-are-they-hygienic