So which is better for the environment, drying your hands with papers towels, or electronic hand dryers? Those researching the issue may not agree. It seems the hand blowers have a much lower environmental impact than paper towels when it comes to greenhouse gases.   But paper towels, which dry your hands completely in less than ten seconds, apparently do a better job at controlling the spread of bacteria. That's because hands are often still wet after using the blowers and the hot jet of air may send bacteria and viruses blowing more than six feet across a public bathroom. Mrs. Doreen Petri teaches Environmental Science at Collegiate Academy.  She said, "There is a dialogue about whether the blowers spread bacteria and viruses across the room and actually encourage the spread of disease, and that research is still underway."

The hotter issue still, may be the noise levels of the newest generation of hand blowers.  A lawmaker in Oregon wants to set an 84 decibels limit. An audiologist we spoke to at R.W. Petruso Hearing & Audiology Center agrees, some of the blowers are too loud.  Dr. Kelly K Green said, "Over a certain amount of time, they could cause damage, over 80 decibels over a certain amount of time, OSHA standards say you need to be wearing ear protection. As I read today, the hand dryers can be over 84 or 85 decibels and over time that can cause damage."

Mrs. Petri told us clearly there are trade offs on how to handle this issue.  "Every single problem solving strategy has advantages and trade offs, so we just have to continue to educate ourselves and try and make the best decisions."  Both of our experts agree it's a good thing that the loud dryers are only on for a short period of time.