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Hospital Dryers Escalate Environmental Contamination

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 18 Sep 2018
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Image: A new study claims Airblades are cheaper to run but less hygienic than paper towels (Photo courtesy of Alamy).
Image: A new study claims Airblades are cheaper to run but less hygienic than paper towels (Photo courtesy of Alamy).
A new study suggests that jet-air hand dryers in hospital toilets spread more germs than disposable paper towels, and should not be used.

Researchers at the University of Leeds (United Kingdom), CHU Saint Antoine (Paris, France), and the University of Udine (Italy) conducted a multicenter, internal-crossover study to compare bacterial contamination levels in washrooms with hand-drying by either paper towels (PT) or the Dyson jet-air dryer (JAD). 120 sampling sessions occurred over a period of 12 weeks in the three hospitals, with bacteria cultured from air, multiple surfaces, and dust. Washroom footfalls (patients/visitors/staff) were monitored externally.

The results revealed that bacterial contamination was lower in PT than JAD washrooms. Total bacterial recovery was significantly greater from JAD than PT dispenser surfaces at all sites, with significantly more bacteria recovered from JAD washroom floors in the UK and France than in Italy. MRSA recovery was three times more frequent, and significantly more enterococci and ESBL-producing bacteria were recovered from UK washroom floors, but on the other hand, footfall was also nine times higher in UK washrooms. And while contamination levels were similar in France and the UK, they were markedly lower in Italy. The study was published on September 7, 2018, in the Journal of Hospital Infection.

“The problem starts because some people do not wash their hands properly. When people use a jet-air dryer, the microbes get blown off and spread around the toilet room,” said senior author professor of medical microbiology Mark Wilcox, PhD, of the University of Leeds. “The dryer creates an aerosol that contaminates the toilet room, including the dryer itself and potentially the sinks, floor, and other surfaces, depending on the dryer design and where it is sited. If people touch those surfaces, they risk becoming contaminated by bacteria or viruses.”

“The higher environmental contamination observed when using jet-air dryers compared with paper towels increases the risk for cross-contamination,” added study co-author microbiologist Professor Frédéric Barbut, PhD, of CHU Saint Antoine. “These results confirm previous laboratory-based findings and support the recent French guidelines regarding hand hygiene, which discourage using jet-air dryers in clinical wards.”

The JAD, also known as the Airblade, uses a thin layer of unheated air travelling at around 640 km/h as a squeegee to remove water, rather than using heat to evaporate it. According to Dyson, the Airblade dry hands in just 10 seconds and uses less electricity than conventional hand dryers. It is also 69% more energy-efficient than conventional hand-dryers, due to decreased drying times, and 97% more cost effective than paper towels, making it a popular hand hygiene solution for public bathrooms around the world.

Related Links:
University of Leeds
CHU Saint Antoine
University of Udine

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