Chirec Delta Brussels - hand drying - Touchfree Toilet

The latest figures show that paper towel producers lost more than $800 million in revenue between 2012 and 2020 due to competition from electric hand dryers. Since the introduction of electric jet hand dryers, the paper industry has conducted several studies to show that jet hand dryers could be less hygienish than paper towels.

The European Tissue Symposium (ETS) is a Brussels-based organisation that represents the interests of the paper tissue industry, including Kimberly-Clark and SCA. Their task is, among other things, to limit the revenue lost, by going on the attack against jet dryers and spreading misleading information. Since 2008, for example, the ETS funded and published a research in an attempt to discredit jet hand dryers to the general public.

In 2017, a detailed plan was published on the ETS website that revealed how – with the help of a publicity campaign – electric hand dryers would be attacked. However, that campaign was based on misleading scientific research. The study, which focused on the spread of antibiotic-resistant microbes, was commissioned by the University of Leeds in the toilets of three hospitals in France, Italy and the United Kingdom. The results of this study show that there is no clear conclusion to be drawn about the difference in hygiene between use of paper towels and jet dryers. Nevertheless, in the media a story is spread that paper is more hygienic and misleading information about the hygiene of hand dryers is disseminated.

Earlier, in 2015, the ETS paid a researcher from the University of Westminster. During his experiment, the researcher artificially infected gloves with an abnormal amount of microbes, about 100,000 times more than normal. Then the hands were placed – without washing them – in the dryer to let the viruses be blown away. Based on that unreasonable experiment, the researcher concluded that paper towels are more hygienic. Subsequently, the ETS paid the Brussels public relations firm Duo Media more than € 100,000 to disseminate these misleading conclusions without mentioning the (unrealistic) method used.

This all followed an earlier study of the paper industry in 2013, which was done by SCA Hygiene Products (the parent company of Tork) and Campden BRI. This study concluded that, under normal circumstances, the use of a jet hand dryer does not have a significant impact on the amount of bacteria in the air of a toilet space compared to paper towels.

A detailed analysis of these three studies of the paper industry can be found here: