Opinion: Paper Towels Should Be Added to the Bathrooms

By Luca Hatzopoulos, Staff Writer

The posters that have recently been placed in the bathrooms due to the Coronavirus outbreak instruct us to dry our hands with paper towels instead of using hand dryers. But throughout the entire Niles West building, just two out of the 26 student bathrooms supply paper towels. Those two bathrooms are located on the 2nd and 3rd-floor science wings. The lack of paper towels in the other 24 bathrooms makes it hard for students to stay safe and follow the precautions promoted by Niles West.

Niles West follows guidelines from the CDC, which recommend the use of hand dryers or clean towels. It just so happens hand dryers are more cost beneficial for us, so that is what they put in the bathrooms. It’s just that the Coronavirus outbreak has made all of us more conscious about handwashing and, for that matter, hand drying.

Hand dryers are actually the most cost-efficient option for our school. Niles West saves over $7,000 annually by using hand dryers instead of paper towels. The hand dryers also reduce an estimated 3,814 kgs of CO2 annually, which is a climate change benefit. I wouldn’t have thought the cost difference between buying hand dryers and paper towels was something the school considered, but it’s actually one of the main factors taken into account. It’s a cost-savings to the school, the taxpayers, and the environment.

That said, research shows that hand dryers do spread, rather than remove, germs. Since air dryers circulate germs back onto one’s hand and the air, it could make students more prone to getting a sickness. Paper towels would not only save disgusting bacteria from getting onto our hands, but it could also serve another purpose by allowing us to open and close bathroom doors when we exit. After you’ve washed your hands, the last thing you want is to touch a contaminated door with clean hands.

Sometimes I want to walk out of the bathroom with wet hands because, more often than not, when I use the hand dryers, my hands are still wet and even cold. But beggars can’t be choosers, so I’ll still continue to use it because it’s the only option available.

Nonetheless, paper towels should be provided in all bathrooms, even if only in the short term or during flu seasons. The school should also focus on promoting something the bathrooms do supply, not something they don’t.