Nichole Ward’s Facebook post began with a biology assignment and a petri dish. The now viral photo shows the petri dish just days after exposure to a restroom hand dryer. ( Nichole Ward | Facebook )
A Facebook post about hand dryers that has gone viral has many questioning whether such devices are hygienic at all. Before anyone panics, some experts have their own say on the matter.
Viral Facebook Post
A recent Facebook post got the attention of hundreds of thousands of people everywhere, and for good reason. As the current flu season continues to claim lives and threaten many others, it was shocking for many to see a petri dish that was placed in a popular hand dryer looking pretty bacteria ridden.
As it turns out, the photo that has since gone viral all began with a microbiology assignment. Nichole Ward’s professor had apparently asked the students to choose a location, place an open the petri dish for just three minutes, and then observe what the resulting growth would be. While Ward’s classmates’ petri dishes all got growths of some sort, none looked more alarming than Ward’s, which was placed in an enclosed Dyson dryer.
Ward posted the photo on Facebook along with a warning to not use the devices again, stating that several strains of fungi and bacteria swirl around in people’s hands. She also stated that the post was simply for public awareness and not to instill fear in people. The original post has since been shared over 500,000 times.
Fear And Backlash
In the days following Ward’s post, many people immediately raised their concerns and shock at the look of the petri dish. However, according to Ward, she has also received quite a lot of backlash for the post, with some stating that the it was unscientific fearmongering. In fact, she states that she has also received death threats.
In a response to the post, Dyson, the company responsible for the hand dryer in question, provided a statement saying that they were surprised with the result and that the methodology used was quite unclear. Further, they state that the product in question has been proven hygienic by university research.
Not A New Question
Despite the media attention that the simple Facebook post garnered, this is not the first time that Dyson has been questioned regarding the hygiene of their products, as some studies and even members of the public claim that the product blows bacteria all over the room. On the other hand, Dyson defends their product by stating that some of the studies were funded by the paper towel industry and even created a video wherein a microbiologist explains “the truth” about hand drying hygiene.
Unfortunately, different studies yield different results, with some favoring paper towels and some favoring hand dryers. Naturally, there are contentions as to whether which industry or company funded such researches, but one independently funded study by the Mayo Clinic in the year 2000 found no difference between the two hand-drying mediums.
Public Health First
At a time when the flu season is in full swing, perhaps it would be best to set aside industry differences and place public health before anything else. In fact, in a 2016 investigation by local news wherein bacteria were found in Dyson hand dryers in Philadelphia, a scientist at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Dr. Amity Roberts, stated that while these bacteria can make people very sick, it would still be better to use the hand dryers than to not wash the hands at all.
Regarding the photo, Canadian microbiologist Jason Tetro states that the five or six types of bacteria or fungi Ward gathered in the petri dish was likely from the environment rather than the dryer itself and that most of them are not harmful in the concentrations in which she found them. Furthermore, he states that there is no difference between paper towels and hand dryers when it comes to spreading pathogens, and the best option would probably be to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.