Demystifying hand dryers
What do health organizations say about hand dryers for proper hand hygiene? AIA partner Excel outlines their advice.
As the emergence of COVID-19 has gradually but surely changed the very ways we live, infection control has become global society’s top priority. In turn, hand hygiene practices have become more relevant than ever.
Both the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list proper hand hygiene among the best defenses against spreading germs. Proper hand hygiene involves thoroughly washing hands for at least 20 seconds and drying them completely. While both organizations list air drying as an effective means of drying hands, the World Health Organization specifically identifies warm air dryers as one method.
Health experts weigh in
When it comes to germs, it is understood that washing is only half of the hand hygiene equation. Hand drying is equally, if not more, important. In fact, an independent study from the University of Auckland found that wet hands have been shown to be 1,000 times more likely to transfer germs than dry hands.
Some misconceptions about hand dryers remain; however, “the breadth of data available does not favor one hand drying method as being more hygienic or safer,” said Kelly Reynolds, Ph.D., professor and department chair at the Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona.
The Mayo Clinic previously studied and reported on the different types of hand drying, finding that “…there is no difference in bacteria counts when drying with paper towels or hand dryers.”
More recently, the World Health Organization recommended that everyone “frequently clean [their] hands…” and “dry [them] thoroughly by using paper towels or a warm air dryer.” In addition, health experts from the WHO, the CDC, and Johns Hopkins University have stated that “there is no evidence that hand dryers are spreading the [corona]virus.”
The CDC, in its Fight Germs. Wash Your Hands! hand hygiene video, produced in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), recommends that “…once your hands are cleaned, you should dry them thoroughly by using a clean towel, an electric hand dryer, or air dry them.”
Next-level hygiene: HEPA protection
HEPA filtration can add an additional layer of protection.
Viral filtration efficiency testing conducted by LMS Technologies in April of this year challenged XLERATOR HEPA Filtration Systems with approximately 380 million viruses ranging in size between 16.5 and 604.3 nanometers. In the end, the testing found that the HEPA Filtration System removed 99.999 percent of viruses from the airstream.
Of the results, LMS Technologies President Al Vatine said, “The virus used in the test represents all viruses, like coronavirus, in terms of their size or how they would react to the filter. I can, with confidence, tout the effectiveness of the XLERATORs with HEPA filtration systems. If it can perform this effectively in an enhanced, virus-infused scenario, it surely would provide effective filtration in real-world settings.”
As a touchless hand hygiene solution, hand dryers eliminate unnecessary touch points for building staff and users, before and during use, thereby reducing the risk of germ transfer.
At a time when proper hand washing and drying is paramount, these results can provide added peace of mind with regard to hand dryer hygiene.
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