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What happens when you flush a public toilet?

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US researchers recently installed particle counters in public toilets. The goal ? Observe the level of the aerosols after flushing the toilet. And the least we can say is that the results are as surprising as they are disgusting.

A significant increase in particles in the air

In June 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic had just started, a Chinese study recommended close the toilet bowl before flushing the toilet. According to the results, this act is at the origin of projections of droplets up to one meter away. Another study, this time conducted by Florida Atlantic University (United States) and published in the journal Fluid physics on March 22, 2021 mainly focused on public toilets. This is not a scoop, the public toilets are not very appreciable, especially because of hygiene reigning there. However, there is sometimes a pressing need to be satisfied and no other solution available.

US researchers have installed particle counters at different heights, near a urinal and conventional toilets. The goal? Measure the level of aerosols – those particles suspended in the air – after flushing the toilet. Scientists observed a 209% increase the presence of particles of 0.5 to 1 micrometer. For particles measuring between 0.3 and 0.5 micrometers, there is talk of an increase of 69.5%.

Credits: Sebleouf / Wikipedia

A real risk of transmission

According to the study, it would therefore be quite opportune to flee fairly quickly after flushing. Nevertheless, a question arises: why take precautions in the face of tiny, seemingly harmless droplets? The answer is clear: aerosols contain many infectious microorganisms. In these times of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is also a serious vector of contamination.

So indeed, no case of person infected by aerosols in public toilets has been proven. Nevertheless, it seems that the danger does exist. You should know that people with the coronavirus can be caught by nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Now these fluids represent a risk of transmission. By the way, let’s mention the fact that public toilets are a place where ventilation and ventilation are often lacking.

Like the Chinese study, the US study recommends closing the toilet bowl when flushing of water. On the other hand, this is impossible in the case of urinals. Ultimately, the best course of action is to simply avoid using a public washroom.


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