Voice 1: Is there a dispenser from which you can take a neatly folded paper towel? Or perhaps a roll from which you tear off a couple of squares of tissue? After using either of these, you will throw your used paper towel into a bin.
Voice 2: Or is there a contraption fixed onto the wall that you put your wet hands underneath and which blows hot air onto your wet hands as you rubs them vigorously? You might feel good about this because you aren’t creating waste.
Voice 1: Or is there the new hot air-hand drying machine where you put your wet hands into a wide slot, like putting a slice of bread into a toaster? It’ll huff and It’ll puff and It’ll blow your hands dry! You look down and for a moment it looks as if the skin is going to be pulled off your hands. But no! In a matter of seconds, your hands are dry.
Voice 2: The manufacturers of paper towels, hot air blowers and put-your-hands-in-a slot hand driers are all claiming that their system is the most efficient and best for the environment. The slot-type driers, sometimes called air blades, is the most recent and would seem to be the most favoured. But wait a moment. A paper in the Journal of Microbiology has recently come up with some surprising statistics.
Voice 1: The paper concludes that air blade driers can spread sixty times more germs than standard air blowers, and a staggering one thousand three hundred times more than standard paper towels. It seems to be a case of ‘It’ll huff, and It’ll puff and It’ll spread germs from your hands into the air’
Voice 2: These results were obtained from experiments conducted at the University of Westminster in London. Researchers took a harmless virus, the MS2 virus, put it into a selection of wet hands and created a target forty centimetres away. They then tested the three drying methods and counted the viral load that landed up on the target from each.
Voice 1: Drying hands with paper towels transmitted the virus only twenty-five centimetres from the source. The standard air-blower managed seventy-five centimetres, but the blades drier shot the virus three metres through the air.
Voice 2: These results came hot on the heels of a survey carried out by a paper-towel manufacturer in Germany. Their tests showed that bacteria on your hands is decreased by twenty-four per cent after using a paper towel, while using an air machine can increase the amount by as much as one hundred and seventeen percent. Scary!
Voice 1: But with all this talk about how to dry your hands, we must not forget that it’s washing them that is important. Forty per cent of hospital infections, for example, come from poor hand washing. Back in 2005, the American Society For Microbiology reported that 97 per cent of women and 96 per cent of men say that they always wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom. The key word there is ‘say’. Later research showed that only 75 per cent of women and 58 per cent of men actually did!