A viral Facebook post has people thinking twice before using hand dryers in public restrooms.
Nichole Ward from Carlsbad, Calif. stuck a Petri dish under a public hand dryer for three minutes and posted the results of what grew in the dish after three days.
“This here, Is what grew in a Petri dish after just a few days,” she wrote on Facebook along with the picture of the dish filled with giant globs of bacteria.
“I stuck the open plate in an enclosed hand dryer of a public bathroom for a total of 3 minutes. Yes 3 only. DO NOT EVER dry your hands in those things again.”
Ward told NBC 7 that she conducted the experiment after her microbiology professor challenged the class to put a Petri dish somewhere of their choice for a few minutes.
“This is the several strains of possible pathogenic fungi and bacteria that you’re swirling around your hands,” her post continued. “And you think you’re walking out with clean hands.”
Ward concluded her post and said, “this post is simply for awareness, not to instill fear.”
Her post has since been shared over 560,000 times.
“I can tell you that hand dryers can be very unsanitary as they blow bacteria from hands all over the bathroom,” Tracey Brown, a biology professor at Cal State University San Marcos, told NBC 7. “From what I know, the most sanitary way to dry is actually to use paper towels to completely dry your hands as the rubbing action helps (after washing correctly of course) dislodge bacteria.”
A professor and infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine pointed out that bacteria are everywhere, but the photo does raise questions about bathroom hand dryers.
“It’s a hypothesis that could be tested in a scientifically controlled way — for example, by comparing the results from this one hand dryer to what might grow after exposure to multiple hand dryers with and without HEPA filters, and compared to control Petri dishes that are just left open in the bathroom and Petri dishes that are exposed to a hand dryer located outside a bathroom,” Victor Nizet said.
There have been previous studies that found similar results to Ward’s experiment.
Scientists from the University of Leeds found that airborne germ counts around air hand dryers were 27 times higher than around paper towel dispensers, MSN reported.
Ward said that she will not be using the hand dryers anymore since her experiment.
“From now on I just wash and scrub, and dry on my clothes or shake and air dry OUTSIDE of the restroom.”
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