Monday, March 26, 2012

Another Emergency Post: Winnie the Pooh and the Case of the Germ Ridden Hand Dryer

I have broken off from writing to make this emergency post.

As you can see from the title I am still working on my Winnie the Pooh story. (Bear with me folks.) Anyway, my Pooh story necessitated me doing some research on hand dryers. (Those machines in bathrooms for drying your hands - just thought I'd mention that in case any of you were confused.) And yes, I know a story about Winnie Pooh and an electric hand dryer sounds almost inconceivable but should you folks ever get to read my masterpiece it'll probably blow your brains out with its originality - or you'll just blow your brains out.

So to get back to the hand dryer business. For my story I needed to know when hand dryers were invented so I duly googled "When were hand dryers invented?" (original I know) and up came the Wikipedia page for Hand Dryer.

By the way, I can't believe how much time some people have to input all this stuff on Wikipedia - is there a Wikipedia page for everything?  In fact I'm going to test that potential theory right now:

Okay, Wikipedia is not infallible.

I put in "My Arse" and luckily no Wikipedia page came up. Phew.

So to continue; I read the Wiki page and discovered that hand dryers were invented in 1948 which suited my story perfectly. Then, unfortunately, I read some really ghastly information. Now, I've always suspected that hand dryers were not very hygienic as to put it simply - they blow hot air all over the place. I've always imagined them to pick up the germs a bit like the wind picks up litter and drops it two hundred yards up the street. Pretty disgusting really. Perhaps somewhere in my dark and distance past I've even read something along those lines. However, suddenly there was all the information in black and white some of which, courtesy of  the good gentlemen of Wikipedia, I'm pasting below:

In 2008, an unpublished study was conducted by the University of Westminster, London, for the trade body, European Tissue Symposium, to compare the levels of hygiene offered by paper towels, warm air hand dryers and the more modern jet-air hand dryers. The key findings were:
  • after washing and drying hands with the warm air dryer, the total number of bacteria was found to increase on average on the finger pads by 194% and on the palms by 254%
  • drying with the jet air dryer resulted in an increase on average of the total number of bacteria on the finger pads by 42% and on the palms by 15%
  • after washing and drying hands with a paper towel, the total number of bacteria was reduced on average on the finger pads by up to 76% and on the palms by up to 77%.
The scientists also carried out tests to establish whether there was the potential for cross contamination of other washroom users and the washroom environment as a result of each type of drying method. They found that:
  • the jet air dryer, which blows air out of the unit at claimed speeds of 400 mph (≈640 km/h), was capable of blowing micro-organisms from the hands and the unit and potentially contaminating other washroom users and the washroom environment up to 2 metres away
  • use of a warm air hand dryer spread micro-organisms up to 0.25 metres from the dryer
paper towels showed no significant spread of micro-organisms.

To which I (conservatively) say ; 


Now, from reading around a little if you're using a new fan-dangled hand dryers like the Dyson Airbladewhich is becoming more popular here in the UK, it may offer more protection than traditional dryers as the design shields water being spread about as well as sucking in air and cleaning it using an antibacterial filter. Although this sounds great in theory until I see hard statistics relating to how effective these machines are within a given airspace if I have a choice I'll probably still be going for the paper hand towels which decrease the bacterial count by 24%  - whereas according to the Wikipedia article a hand dryer increases bacterial count by 117%. It is good, however, to see Dyson developing this kind of technology though because we all know paper towels and the old type hand dyers are hideously wasteful.

So for the time being at least -the answer maybe to use a paper towel or cross your legs.

Thus ends this emergency post. I've got to get back to Winnie. In my story I'd thought about developing a replacement for toilet roll. Unfortunately, I'm now having second thoughts...... (use your imagination!)


  1. I'm frequently stuck for something to write about. That's not a problem you seem to have.
    I'm completely in awe of you.....

  2. Thanks for the very useful information! It's paper towels for me!
    Btw, wonder what the replacement for the toilet roll was.

  3. Thanks, Martin! - to be honest I think it's just a case I was born with a silly disposition and I've never really grown up. It's a wonder Mr T has buried me under the patio yet:)

  4. Glad to be of service, Sue:)

    Umm.. the replacement to loo roll was something very chilling - or warming depending on your preferences:)

  5. That is all very interesting. Has anyone done any research on what percentage of bacteria are removed/added by drying one's hands on one's baggy T-shirt? I should really like to know. While we're on the subject, some hand dryers have a deafening, high-pitched squeal and are painful to be around. All in all, I wish they hadn't been invented. Golly, I'm grumpy today, aren't I?

  6. I concur Mrs B - they are ghastly, noisy things - what we need developing are silent hand dryers. I much prefer paper towels - or indeed baggy t shirts:)

    No harm in being grumpy.Don't let it get it get on top of you - eat some choccy or steer the shopping trolley into an unsuspecting passerby! (just kidding - go for the choccy.)


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