23 October 2018
The start of cold and flu season necessitates a critique of the methods in which we keep ourselves clean. This applies primarily to how we wash our hands.
The push to use hand dryers instead of paper towels in our bathrooms is causing more problems than it is helping.
If you walk into any bathroom arrayed across the UCCS campus, it’s most likely that you’ll have to dry your hands with a blow-dryer. While paper towels are also sporadically available, it would seem that UCCS has decided to shift its focus away from the environmentally unfriendly use of hand-towels, towards the use of a no-touch drying system.
While this shift could be considered a push for economic and environmental consideration, it couldn’t be farther from the truth, especially when one considers the impact that it has on our personal health.
A study published in the journal, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, concluded that bathroom blow-dryers might not be as effective as paper towels. Specifically, researchers found that air-blasted plates carried 17 to 60 colonies of bacteria on average, whereas extended exposure of plates to just the bathroom’s air currents resulted in fewer than one colony.
A second study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, compared jet dryers and paper towels. In doing so, they found that blow-dryers facilitate the growth of bacteria. In fact, they found that individuals that utilized dryers had 27 times bacteria on their hands than individuals that only used paper towels.
What do both of these studies imply?
It would seem that a shift to this specific environmentally friendly alternative to paper towels might actually be creating detrimental effects to our health, a fact that seems to be widely overlooked by our school administration.
While the argument could be made, both economically and environmentally, that blow-dryers are a more preferred method of drying one’s hands, a deficit arises at the cost of our health.
This opinion is also reflected in the clear majority of healthcare facilities nationwide. If hospital facilities shy away from using blow-dryers in favor of paper towels, then why is UCCS doing the opposite?
UCCS needs to take a more direct look at the medical literature first, and the cost of paper towels second.