Investigator | High levels of E.Coli bacteria found at local shopping malls

The Investigator: High levels of bacteria found in local shopping malls

They dry your hands in a matter of seconds, but some of those fancy, high-powered hand dryers were also found to be contaminated with high levels of E.Coli bacteria which can cause people to become sick.

Dyson, which makes the popular high-tech devices, says the problem is not with the machines. Rather, it's with the people who are supposed to clean and maintain the units.

WKYC did random tests of Dyson Airblade jet dryers found at popular locations around Northeast Ohio.

Under the direction of microbiologist Roger Pryor of Accra Laboratories, Channel 3 News swabbed 12 hand dryers and had them tested at Accra.

"Those blowers blow with such force that you can be within three feet of the machine, and if bacteria is there, it can be blown on you even if you don't use the machine," Pryor said.

The good news is that hand dryers at five locations were as clean as a whistle. Rocksino, Costco in Westlake, the Cleveland Art Museum, the Cleveland Clinic in Independence and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were all free of E.Coli and other bacteria.

"This is our busy season, so we have thousands of visitors walking through every single day," said John Goehrke at the Rock Hall. "It's imperative that all of our facilities are in pristine condition."

The bad news is that seven of 12 hand dryers were not clean.

Jet dryers in the men's restrooms at Southpark and Great Northern malls had high levels of E.Coli, according to Pryor. At Great Northern, WKYC investigators scraped off gunk on one of the dryers which appeared to be filthy. And it was.

"The entire surface of the plate is covered with E.Coli. It represents a couple hundred thousand colonies of bacteria," Pryor said. "Normally, when I do this sort of testing, I see less than 10 colonies. This was in the hundreds of thousands."

Southpark spokesman Ed Jaroszewicz said the mall is transitioning to a newer model jet dryer that he says is easier to clean and maintain.

Great Northern spokeswoman Dana Wolf thanked Channel 3 News for reaching out. She said the mall takes pride in maintaining high levels of cleanliness.

"We have asked our custodial team to re-examine and update their cleaning process as needed to ensure we are meeting the standards and expectations of our guests," she wrote in a statement. 

At Wasabi Steak and Sushi in Copley, Pryor found E.Coli on a jet dryer in the men's washroom. The restaurant's general manager was surprised.

"I can't explain it because we sanitize them daily. We have a sanitizer and we spray them and wipe them down," Paul Hsia said.

He said he would check into the issue immediately. Four days later, Channel 3 News investigators swabbed the hand dryer a second time. Pryor said E.Coli  turned up again, but not as much as was found in the first test.

The managing partner at Wasabi, Nan Lin, emailed Channel 3 News saying the restaurant changed its procedures following the first test and sanitized the hand dryer three times a day.

When learning of the second test result, Lin scheduled a contractor to come out right away to remove the hand dryers and replace them with traditional paper towel dispensers.

"Customer safety is our top priority," Lin wrote.

A study last year found jet dryers spread 60 times more germs than regular, box-like dryers, and 1,300 times more germs than paper towels.

A study two years earlier found similar results.

Dyson accused the paper towel industry of resorting to dirty tactics in a bid to discredit new technology.

In a statement, Dyson said:

"Dyson Airblade hand dryers are hygienic, as research carried out by several universities in the US and UK proves. If Dyson Airblade hand dryers are maintained in accordance with our recommendations, which include wiping surfaces and cleaning the air inlet regularly, bacteria on the machine will not pose an issue.  As with anyting kept in a bathroom, it is down to facility management to ensure everything is kept to a certain standard of cleanliness."

As Pryor pointed out, the levels of E.Coli found on the machines can cause people to get sick if they're exposed.

"You can get flu-like symptoms, including nausea and diarrhea," he said.

© 2017 WKYC-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment
More Stories