I've just finished watching a very topical episode of Mythbusters for those of us with a challenged immune system. And isn't that all of us to some degree? This episode set out to assess the myth that drying your hands with a paper towel left your hands cleaner than the alternative of a forced (and noisy) air dryer - which also takes longer.
Early in the episode, the two hosts checked for bacterial contamination after washing their hands with water and then with soap and water. A hand wash with just water showed some bacteria cultured from a hand swab, but none showed up on the culture after a soap and water wash.
They then conducted a trial with a group of 16 volunteers and found that paper towel drying was far better. 116 samples were cultured - 96 from the volunteers who had their hands sprayed front and back twice with a safe e-coli bacterial solution and 20 from around the dryers.
Bacterial Load Reduction
The samples taken from the wall and floor around the air dryer and paper towel dispenser were cultured to determine if there was any truth to the myth that an air dryer spread bacteria around the room. They confirmed this was indeed the case, with 41 bacterial colonies cultured when testing around the air dryer and only 3 cultured from around the paper towel dispenser.
In the second part of the program, they checked which of 4 toilet stalls in a in a public building men's toilet were used most often and also which were the cleanest. The outside stalls had around a third less use than the inner stalls and the stall closest to the door had the lowest number of bacterial colonies.
So, in summary, if you use a public toilet, use an outside stall, preferably the one closest to the door, then wash your hands with soap and water and use the paper towel, assuming of course both are available! Then because unfortunately many men don't bother washing, you have to exit the room without touching the door handle, which is usually impossible as the door invariably opens towards you...
(Found this after writing the above - should have done a search first!!)
Medical Breakthrough to save Millions of Lives
CLL - a Cancer of the Immune System