According to a recent study, the amount of bacteria in the air around hand dryers in public bathrooms is 27 times higher than the amount when paper towels are used instead. The thing is hand dryers may seem better for the environment as tons of paper will be saved, but they can still spread more bacteria than paper towels. In fact, high-velocity hand dryers (jet-dryers) are the worst of all as they have nearly five times more bacteria around them than basic hot-air hand dryers.
About the study
The objective of the study was to examine virus dispersal of three different hand-washing methods: paper towels, conventional warm-air dryers, and jet dryers. What the researchers found was that high-velocity dryers spread 60 times more viral plaque-forming units than warm-air dryers and 1,300 times more than paper towels. They also discovered that jet dryers can disperse viruses up to 3 meters (10 feet), standard warm air dryers 75 centimeters (2.5 feet) and hand towels only 25 centimeters (10 inches).
The subjects of the study were asked to wear gloves and wash their hands in air-controlled rooms in which different types of hand dryers and paper-towel dispensers were installed. The goal was to find out which one of them dispersed the most viruses.
The results of the study caused a lot of stir, especially among hand-dryer manufacturers. They blamed the paper towel industries as being the ones who funded the study to raise their sales.
One thing is for sure, you can avoid public restrooms as much as you tried. The best you can do is to wash your hands thoroughly so as to prevent the dispersal of bacteria.