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Expert consensus statement finds paper towels the most hygienic way to dry hands
European microbiologists and hospital hygienists have produced a scientific consensus statement that is said to uphold evidence that hand drying, using paper towels, is associated with lower numbers of microbes on the hands and in the washroom environment, than using warm air dryers or high velocity air dryers.
The six experts, working in hospitals and universities in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Sweden and the UK, have signed an eight-point consensus - Hand drying: an important part of hand hygiene.
It highlights the importance of hand drying, following thorough hand washing and notes that air drying blows water containing microbes off the hands- which can contaminate others in the washroom environment.
Signatories to the consensus examined a wide selection of scientific literature and also the studies sponsored by the European Tissue Symposium, in particular those undertaken by Eurofins-Inlab in Germany and the University of Westminster in the UK.
"From the results we have examined, it appears that there may be a greater risk of exposure to microbes associated with some types of hand driers," says Marc Van Ranst, professor in virology and chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Leuven in Belgium - one of the signatories to the consensus.
"There was an increased level of microbial contamination on and beneath air driers, particularly jet air driers. These findings have implications for the prevention of spread of microbes and infections and could result in reduced illness and time off sick and so ultimately provide economic benefit too.
"We urge that they be explored further by companies, cleaning and facilities' managers and beyond."
Hand hygiene is recognised as the most important standard measure to prevent cross contamination or transmission of nosocomial hospital acquired infections. The World Health Organisation recommends the use of paper towels in its poster on hand washing.
The consensus statement will could well prompt further research and steer policy guidance in all workplace washrooms - particularly those where workers are involved in the preparation of food.
"Paper tissue absorbs water and microorganisms," argues Roberto Berardi, chairman of the European Tissue Symposium. "It is crucial that washrooms offer a method of hand drying that minimises the risk of recontaminating the hands and blowing microbes onto yourself, others or surfaces around you
"This scientific consensus is an important step in supporting our efforts to promote paper towels as the most hygienic hand-drying solution."
The signatories are:
Professor Silvio Brusaferro, MD, Professor of public health, University of Udine, Italy
Professor Bertil Kaijser, MD, Professor and Senior Consultant clinical bacteriology, Sahlgrens University, Sweden
Dr. Ralf Kaemmerer, Senior expert at TUV Rhineland, Germany
Keith Redway, Senior academic in microbiology, department of biomedical sciences, University of Westminster, UK
Prof. dr. Marc Van Ranst, Professor of Virology and chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Leuven in Belgium
Professor Mark Wilcox, MD, Consultant microbiologist, Leeds Teaching hospitals, UK and Professor of Medical Microbiology at the University of Leeds (Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine), and is the Lead on Clostridium difficile for Public Health England (PHE).
21st November 2013