When people discover that our family operates Martin Oaks Cemetery & Crematory in Lewisville, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, Texas, one of the more common areas of discussion which arises has to do with causes of death.
These topics can also lead to medical advances or medical issues in the news.
Obviously, we operate a crematory — we don’t practice medicine, and are not terribly educated about the most current discoveries in microbiology. But, it does make for some interesting conversation!
This subject comes up because of recent story in “Applied and Environmental Microbiology” which suggests that hand dryers in public restrooms are not as clean as one might think.
In truth, this study mirrors other work which has recently been done.
The thrust of this research is that, in layman’s terms, hand dryers blow waste material through the air, much a leaf blower spreading leaves and debris might do.
When compared to other methods of drying your hands, for example the old fashion way with paper towels, hand dryers are not necessarily as sanitary.
One study, in the “Journal of Hospital Infection,” shockingly concluded that at much as 25 times more bacteria was spewed into the atmosphere than when paper towels were employed.
Not exactly comforting, especially if you have any sensitivity to proper hand washing procedures.
The “Journal of Applied Microbiology” noted that bacteria could be launched up to three meters away — that’s almost ten feet.
Get several hand dryers going at once, you are navigating through a small squall of, well, let’s call it gunk.
While all of these particles are not necessarily dangerous, they can lead to problems, particularly for those who already have compromised immune systems or other medical issues.
As is the case with anything else in the medical arena, factual disputes about this research have occurred; some have argued that all methods of hand drying are equally effective or at least equally problematic.
What we have not found in dispute is the adage that proper hand washing is critical to the reduction of the spread of bacteria in restrooms or anywhere else.
What is also not in dispute is that the general public is not doing its job when it comes to appropriately scrubbing hands.
According to research by the American Society of Microbiology, 97 percent of females and 92 percent of males REPORT that they wash their hands in public restrooms.
Sound kind of high? It is. The same society did observation research and concluded that the numbers were closer to 75 percent of females and 58 percent of males. Other studies point to even lower levels.
The results become more concerning when hand washing and APPROPRIATE hand washing are considered. Yes, your parents were right: the correct way to wash your hands is to use soap and scrub for approximately 20 seconds.
None of these studies are particularly encouraging — but experts say that a couple of tips can help reduce your exposure to anything harmful. Wash your hands well, dry with paper towels and use paper towels to open exit doors to restrooms.
The subject of airline travel is likewise a veritable textbook of microbiological data. You don’t have to be a scientist or even a very frequent flyer to know this.
For airplane bacteria, it’s the usual suspects — tray tables, seat buckles, restrooms, air vents and seat back pockets all present potential bacterial hazards.
We were surprised to learn that aisle seats also have issues. It seems when people are moving up and down the aisles, some have a tendency to grab the back of the seats, thus depositing whatever is on their hands to the seats.
This can all get overwhelming — more so if you have cleanliness or hand washing obsessions.
Best advice we have heard, besides appropriate hand washing, is the use of hand sanitizers. While research is still being conducted, some have concluded that the sanitizers are not only effective, the use of them, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t markedly reduce their ongoing benefits — in other words, their impact is not diminished.
There is a whole body of work that has been published about these topics — bottom line for us, keep your hands clean for everyone’s good.
Next blog we will tackle the subject of antibiotics.