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Wednesday, 11 May 1994
Page: 697

(Question No. 1310)

Senator Jones —asked the Minister representing the Minister for Human Services and Health, upon notice, on 11 April 1994:

  (1) Is the Minister aware of the findings by scientists from the University of Westminster in London that: (a) 95 per cent of public washroom hand dryers tested emitted bacteria which could cause food poisoning or broncho-pneumonia; (b) disease-carrying bacteria on the hands can be multiplied by more than 600 per cent when a hot air hand dryer is used; (c) 80 per cent of hot air dryers tested in hospitals blew out bacteria which could cause broncho-pneumonia; and (d) 63 per cent of hot air dryers tested blew out gut bacteria, indicating faecal contamination.

  (2) What health standards apply to the fitting of hot air hand dryers in Australia, particularly in hospitals.

  (3) Are regular tests made in Australia of the bacteria level caused by hot air hand dryers.

  (4) Have comparative tests been carried out in Australia of the bacteria levels on people's hands when using hot air, linen or paper towels.

Senator Crowley —The Minister for Human Services and Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

  (1) I have been made aware of findings of the University of Westminster study. My Department has been informed by the U.K. Department of Health that the study was not peer reviewed and was sponsored by the Association of Makers of Soft Tissue Papers.

  (2) There are no specific health standards for hot air dryers.

  (3) Not that my Department is aware of.

  (4) My Department is not aware of such tests in Australia. My Department is aware of one U.S. study which indicates that air drying produced the highest and cloth drying the lowest reduction in the numbers of certain organisms on the fingers of exposed subjects. On the other hand, there is also evidence from another study that dryers may contribute to the level of micro-organisms that could affect a critical patient care area.