The global growth of electric hand dryers is expected to reach nearly (US) $1.6 billion by 2025, according to market research firm, Grand View Research. The firm’s June 2016 report indicates that the principal reason for the growth is the “escalating demands for eco-friendly devices which facilitate power and paper savings.” The report also highlights how newer hand dryers are more energy efficient, have lower operating costs, and are expected to be installed in more types of facilities including office buildings, and shopping malls as well as multi-use commercial complexes.1
For those in the hand drying business, this is good news. While the sales of electric hand dryers remained somewhat stagnant for years, things have certainly turned around. In the past few years, sales have skyrocketed and are now double what they were a decade ago.
However, there is an issue with electric hand dryers that we should be aware of, and that is: electric hand dryers can spread pathogens into the air. According to a July 2018 study by the Journal of Hospital Infection, once these pathogens become airborne, they can land on a variety of surfaces or be inhaled, which can spread diseases.2
The study tested hospital restrooms located in the UK, France, and Italy, where over a 12-week period, the researchers collected 120 samples. Bacteria were cultured from air samples, multiple surfaces in the restrooms, and dust located on those surfaces. The researchers noted that the test results varied among the three different hospitals, most likely as a result of what was termed “footfall.” This refers to the amount of foot traffic in the three different hospital restrooms.
However, the following were among the key findings reported by researchers:
• During periods of high influenza and norovirus activity, the airborne dispersal of pathogens, potentially during hand-drying following suboptimal hand washing, is an infection control and/or public health concern.
• The high-velocity shearing forces from the electric hand dryer designed to dry hands are also releasing bacterial contamination into restrooms.
• Paper towels, on the other hand, absorb the water and bacteria, preventing pathogens from being released into the environment.
The researchers concluded, “we believe that electric hand dryers are not suited to clinical settings, and, as such, existing infection control building guidance needs to be amended.”
These findings may cause infection control concerns in those facilities that have already installed electric hand dryers or plan to do so. However, building administrators do have options to help keep building users healthy. The most effective option is to turn to new imaging technologies that pinpoint where bacterial build-up is most likely to occur on restroom surfaces. With this knowledge, cleaning professionals know precisely what areas need to be cleaned and disinfected in order to adjust processes so that pathogens can be eliminated.
OptiSolve, an advanced surface assessment company, has developed proprietary imaging technology that reveals microbial contamination to prevent the spread of infection. The technology helps ensure facilities remain hygienically clean; provides a training tool so that cleaning workers spend their time more effectively; and most importantly, helps to keep people healthy.
2 E. Best, et al, “Environmental contamination by bacteria in hospital washrooms according to hand-drying method: a multi-centre study,” Journal of Hospital Infection, December 2018, pages 469-475