Noisy hand dryers are 'clearly dangerous' to children, teen scientist concludes
CTVNews.ca Staff, with a report from CTV News Calgary’s Jaclyn Brown
Published Wednesday, July 3, 2019 8:31AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 3, 2019 3:42PM EDT
A Calgary teenager is drawing attention to loud hand dryers’ potentially harmful effects on children’s hearing.
It began when Nora Keegan was in Grade 5, working on a school science project.
“I found that sometimes after I used the hand dryers my ears would start ringing,” Nora told CTV News Calgary on Tuesday.
To understand why that happened, the 13-year-old student tested the decibel level of hand dryers within her school and throughout the city.
“I drove around to places where there would be lots of children since the manufacturers, they didn’t really measure, they didn’t really state that they measure children’s heights,” she explained.
Using a decibel meter, Nora checked the noise level for 44 hand dryers around the Calgary.
“Nora and I and her younger brother John drove all over the city trying to find these hand dryers so we went to libraries and hockey arenas,” Susan Bannister, Nora’s mother, said.
Nora discovered that many of the hand dryers were louder than their manufacturers claimed, especially the ones that were positioned at a child’s height. The dryers were also noisier, Nora found, when someone’s hands were under them in the airstream.
According to Health Canada guidelines, children’s toys are not allowed to exceed 100 decibels. The hand dryers Nora tested were all around 110 decibels or about as loud as a rock concert.
That level of noise can cause hearing loss in children, previous studies have shown.
“They should not need to worry about like if a hand dryer in the washroom is too loud and could damage their ears,” Nora said.
Nora’s Grade 5 science project expanded into four years of research, which was recently published in Paediatrics & Child Health, the official journal for the Canadian Pediatric Society.
“That stuff you don’t see in Grade 8, that’s stuff you don’t see in Grade 9, that’s stuff they’re trying to teach you in university and beyond so yeah, she’s exceptional,” Nora’s science teacher Cory Abbott said.
While her long-term goal is to become a marine biologist; for now, Nora said she just hopes the companies that manufacture hand dryers are listening to her research.