Washington, Nov 21: A new study has claimed that hand dryers in the toilet are much worse and spread more germs than paper towels. According to new University of Leeds research, high-powered ‘jet-air’ and warm air hand dryers could spread bacteria in public toilets. Airborne germ counts were 27 times higher around jet air dryers in comparison with the air around paper towel dispensers.

The research team, led by Professor Mark Wilcox of the School of Medicine, contaminated hands with a harmless type of bacteria called Lactobacillus, which is not normally found in public bathrooms. This was done to mimic hands that have been poorly washed.

Subsequent detection of the Lactobacillus in the air proved that it must have come from the hands during drying. The experts collected air samples around the hand dryers and also at distances of 1 and 2 metres away.

Air bacterial counts close to jet air dryers were found to be 4.5 times higher than around warm air dryers and 27 times higher compared with the air when using paper towels. Next to the dryers, bacteria persisted in the air well beyond the 15 second hand-drying time, with approximately half (48 percent) of the Lactobacilli collected more than five minutes after drying ended. Lactobacilli were still detected in the air 15 minutes after hand drying. Professor Wilcox said the findings were important for understanding the ways in which bacteria spread, with the potential to transmit illness and disease.