Bring back dry hands: Air dryers fail their purpose

Ryan Leal

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The lack of proper hand drying equipment leaves students in MCPS with wet hands upon leaving the restrooms.

Do you ever happen to see someone leaving one of the bathrooms? If so, I’m sure you’ve noticed that they are shaking their hands wildly in an attempt to dry them, since there is simply no alternative for students these days.

In the wake of the Covid pandemic, the switch to paper-towels should have been a no-brainer. Research published in the NIH’s Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that “paper towels reduced the numbers of all types of bacteria on the hands,” whereas “the hot air dryer increased all types of bacteria on the hands,” and jet air dryers “increased most types of bacteria, but [to a lesser extent] than the hot air dryer.” Given WJ’s air dryers are supposed to be hot air dryers, but emit about as much hot air as opening a minifridge does, it’s safe to assume that our dryers are substantially less productive than paper towels.

The dryers simply don’t dry. I leave wet every time… people leave wiping their hands on their clothes, it’s incredibly unhygienic.

— Ainesh Chatterjee

So why doesn’t our school use paper towels? You might be inclined to believe that this is an MCPS thing – that in order for our school to formally shift over to using paper towels in the bathrooms, it would require our whole county to shift over. But you would be mistaken. In the evenings, I take classes at Montgomery Blair HS, and I can tell you from firsthand experience that they have absolutely no air dryers in their whole school. Instead, a vast and plentiful supply of paper towels free for our disposal. Let me tell you – it’s amazing. I never go to the bathroom at WJ anymore, I always wait until Blair when I can do my business and proceed to fearlessly high five whoever I desire. And what do the Covid statistics show for this? Although Covid cases have died down in recent months for both schools, during the peak reporting time (December 23 through January 5th), WJ had 6.37% of their population reporting positive Covid cases, while Blair had 4.68% of their students reporting positive cases. Although there are quite a lot of factors that go into these numbers, it’s worth considering that WJ not only has fewer students but also has open lunches, something Blair does not have.

And I hate to start using an emotional approach when the science should undoubtedly speak for itself, but don’t you just feel gross leaving the bathroom with wet hands? And then there’s the awkward run back to your class in hopes that your teacher has a tissue box lying around that you can dry your hands off with, or you just skip the hand washing altogether in hopes that your teacher has a bottle of hand sanitizer, only to find that it’s empty. If other high schools can afford to keep their environments sanitized and their students hygienic, there’s no reason our school should be an exception.