Everyone is on high alert about protecting themselves this flu season. But one viral Facebook post makes the case that even cleaning your hands comes with disease risks.
On January 30, Nichole Ward sharing a message about an experiment she conducted in a public restroom. “Okay guys...ready to have your mind blown?!” she wrote next to an image of a bacteria-filled Petri dish.
“I stuck the open plate in an enclosed hand dryer of a public bathroom for a total of 3 minutes. Yes 3 only,” she continued, explaining that this is how long it took for the scary-looking blobs in the Petri dish to grow. “DO NOT EVER dry your hands in those things again.” Ward ended with the hashtags #nomorehanddryers and #outlaw.
And while she made sure to say that her post was “simply for awareness, not to instill fear,” that didn’t stop nearly 150,000 Facebook users from reacting and over 500,000 from sharing Ward's message that public-restroom dryers are germ vectors spewing potentially harmful microbes on your hands.
Yet some officials expressed doubt about the validity of the results. In a statement to ABC Action News, a spokesperson from hand-dryer company Dyson defended the dryers.
“We’re very surprised to see these results, and unclear on the methodology employed,” a spokesperson stated. “All Dyson Airblade hand dryers have HEPA filters that capture particles as small as bacteria from the washroom air before it leaves the machine. Dyson Airblade hand dryers are proven hygienic by university research and are trusted by hospitals, food manufacturers and businesses worldwide.”
The hand dryer-hygiene debate has been the subject of studies. In 2016, a study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology compared how paper towels, standards dryers, and jet dryers disperse viral particles. The study determined that jet dryers (similar to the kind in Ward's post) were the “worst culprits,” according to Fortune. In a test, the jet dryer spread up to 190 times viral particles than the other two methods.
While science keeps looking into it, keep washing your hands to cut down on flu transmission odds, and make sure they're totally dry, since bugs tend to thrive in moisture.