The world is made up of many that we cannot see with the naked eye. For example, particles that are in the air and that we can’t see, but that can cause a lot of problems for us. As this new research revealed, showing the large amounts of tiny aerosol particles that can be released from a toilet flush. And these droplets have a great potential to be carriers of bacteria and diseases.
Scientists know that pathogens lurk in standing water, urine, feces and vomit. Everything that is often found in public restrooms. And some computer models had already shown that the simple act of wiping your hands could send germs a few feet away.
In this new study, the researchers suggest that among the unpleasant things that can be spread are Ebola, the norovirus virus, which is a food poisoning, and even COVID-19 itself. In the study they tested the spread of aerosolized particles from public toilet flushing.
To do this, the researchers set up a particle counter that was placed at different heights next to a toilet and a urinal in a public toilet. And ambient aerosol levels were measured before and after the experiments.
“After about three hours of testing involving over 100 discharges, we found a substantial increase in aerosol levels measured in the ambient environment with the total number of droplets generated in each discharge test ranging up to tens of thousands,” said Siddhartha Verma, professor of mechanical engineering from Florida Atlantic University.
These aerosols rose up to 109 centimeters above the toilets, and up to 69 centimeters above the urinals during the experiments. And they hovered in the air for up to 20 seconds. All these numbers were in agreement with what had been seen previously.
The researchers said there was a 69.5% increase in particles between 0.3 and 5 micrometers in size, and a 209% increase in particles between 0.5 and 1 micrometer. A 50% increase in particles between one and three micrometers in size after washing was also seen.
There are several factors influencing this amount of aerosols produced by the discharge from the vessel. For example, the water pressure in the toilet, the design of the basin and the power of the flush itself. Researchers say that leaving the toilet lid closed can help, if not much. That’s because aerosols can still escape through the openings.
“Both the toilet and the urinal generated large amounts of droplets smaller than three micrometers in size, which pose a significant risk of transmission if they contain infectious microorganisms. Due to their small size, these droplets can be suspended for a long time”, explained Verma.
And in the pandemic time we are living in, there is a particular cause for concern. Since public restrooms are often small, poorly ventilated and crowded with people. All of this is a combination that is already known to create an increased risk of coronavirus transmission. In theory the risk of getting contaminated in a public restroom exists.
And researchers in that study say improved ventilation could help.