Sorry if this article sounds disgusting but it’s important you know what happens after you flush a public toilet.
Actually, it’s what most of us already suspect. After flushing those powerful public toilets and urinals, tons of air droplets accumulate and float around in the air of the restroom for you to breath in. And yes, it’s concerning because COVID-19 is spread through air droplets. In addition, these droplets can contain urine, feces, vomit and pathogens that can cause you to become sick.
Poop and Germ-Filled Air Droplets
Sounds disgusting? Here’s the results from an April 2021 study.
Researchers at Florida Atlantic University used fluid physics to investigate droplets generated from flushing a toilet and a urinal in a public restroom under normal ventilation conditions. They used sensors to measure droplets at different heights around the toilets and urinals in the restrooms.
Their findings showed that public restrooms could be hotbeds for airborne disease transmission. This is especially so for restrooms with poor ventilation or no toilet lid covers. People moving around and even using the hand air dryers can push these droplets all over the restroom to be breathed in.
In the study, the toilet and urinal flushings generated large numbers of droplets smaller than 3 micrometers in size. This means that these droplets can transmit germs that can cause illnesses, including COVID-19. These droplets were detected at heights of up to 5 feet for 20 seconds or longer after initiating a flush.
There were some good news, however. The researchers found that adequate ventilation and toilet cover lids decrease the amount of air droplets. So it would not take much upgrading public restrooms to decrease these nasty air droplets. The study was published in the journal Physics of Fluids.
Beware the Air in Public Restrooms
For now, what it means for us folks is that when using public restrooms, we need to be aware there are nasty, germ-filled air droplets floating around. Especially if you are using a public restroom with poor ventilation and/or no toilet lid covers, make sure you have your masks on. Flush and get out of there quickly!