Hand dryers are among the many small things that help in reducing the amount of paper used on a daily basis. The simple warm-air exhaling machines that are used in a variety of settings such as public washrooms, educational institutes, railway stations, restaurants, and airports for drying wet hands have garnered an increased level of attention of late. Analysts at the market research firm Transparency Market Research estimate that the global market for hand dryers, which had a net valuation of US$442 million in 2013, will expand at a 11.4% CAGR over the period 2014-2020 and rise to a net worth of US$930.8 million by 2020.
Hand dryer manufacturers have always advocated the benefits of hand dryers in reducing the overuse of paper for drying hands and the overall reduction in costs incurred in everyday expenses of a public setting. Apart from the ecological benefits of hand dryers, they are also economically highly viable. The only cost incurred in using hand dryers is the one-time investment for buying the device and the cost of electricity used for operating the device. The simple motor-and-pump mechanism of hand dryers also makes them highly energy efficient. A study undertaken by University of Buffalo in 2014 presented a winning argument for hand dryers on the environmental friendly scale: hand dryers produce 42 percent less carbon dioxide when compared to the paper that is wasted in the form of paper napkins.
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Hand dryers are no doubt economical. But are they also hygienic?
As with every product or technology that starts gaining popularity and attention, several researches and studies are also conducted to study the viability of hand dryers. The key area of research in this field is to find out any possible threats from hand dryers to the public and the sanitary benefits of paper napkins over hand dryers.
One such study undertaken by the University of Leeds in 2014 took to analyze the amount of bacteria count in air around hand dryers and those around paper napkin dispensers. The study measured the level of airborne bacteria in both the places and found that the amount of bacteria around hand dryers was 27 times higher than around paper napkin dispensers. The results were worst for jet-air dryers, which had 4.5 times higher the amount of bacteria than around warm air dryers.
The study also noted that the bacteria endured in the air around hand dryers for a long time after they were used: forty-eight percent of the bacteria persisted even after five minutes after the dryer’s use.
While the findings are an important source of understanding the way in which airborne bacteria spread and persist in the air around hand dryers, leading to a potential risk of transmitting diseases, they have also faced a lot of criticisms for being a little biased.
Advocates of hand dryers argue that the studies are mostly sponsored by tissue paper manufacturers who can generate more revenues if paper wins the debate. Also, the lack of clarity in these researches indicate that as long as there are no actual fatal outbreaks of a bacterial contamination due to the use of hand dryers in a premise, there is no reason to leave the ecological and economical option of hand dyers and switch back to papers.
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The bottom line remains that hand dryers have many consequential benefits for entities using them. Within a few months of their installation, hand dryers pay for themselves with the heavy usage owing to the fact that the cost of electricity is lesser than the cost incurred on buying paper napkins. The lower amount of paper used with hand dryers in place also leads to lower maintenance cost over time as trash bags need to be replaced less often.