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Are Paper Towels Full of Bacteria?

People are always encouraged to wash their hands carefully after going to the bathroom. But a new study suggests that drying your hands on a paper towel could leave nasty bacteria on your skin. Canadian researchers found germs in six different brands of commercial paper towels. Those made from recycled paper had 100 to a 1,000 times more bacteria than those created from wood pulp. It turns out that the recycling process offers a lot of opportunity for bacteria to get a foothold in the paper because the machines may be coated with a bacterial biofilm. Although there is no evidence that such paper towels cause illness, air drying hands may be a safer and more environmentally appropriate solution to the problem of bacterial contamination.

[American Journal of Infection Control,Online Dec. 19, 2011]

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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