An Oregon lawmaker proposed legislation Monday creating uniform standards for hand dryers in public restrooms, citing the proliferation of powerful dryers that, while efficient, can sometimes trigger tinnitus or cause discomfort for people with development or sensory disabilities.
The measure would require all new or replacement dryers to operate at a noise level no louder than 84 decibels. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that is about as loud as a school cafeteria. It also wouldn't allow hand dryers blowing air downwards to blow air faster than 115 mph, in case the hand-dryer manufacturer doesn't label the decibel level.
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Bill sponsor Democratic Sen. Chris Edwards told the Senate Committee on Business and Transportation that the new generation of hand dryers used to elicit episodes in his autistic son, who would cry and cover his ears when he heard them.
It's not the hand-dryer motor that's too loud, Edwards said, it's the "air knife" against the hand that can cause a sharp, shrill sound.
"I almost didn't bring this bill because this is not the most consequential bill of the legislative session. We all know that. But nonetheless there are those of us that just find these hand dryers to be extraordinarily obnoxious and disruptive to family members," Edwards said.
High-speed, efficient new hand dryers, such as the Dyson Airblade or the Excel Xlerator, are fast replacing the old models, which often left hands still dripping wet.
Still, there are some who would prefer if hand dryers were a thing of the past altogether.
"The new ones are faster, but I still would ban them all and go back to paper," said Sen. Chuck Thomsen, R-Hood River.