COVID-19 Warnings: Study Indicates That Public Toilets Are A Potential Transmission Risk As Flushing Propels SARS-CoV-2 Virus 5 Feet Up in Air!
: A new study by researchers from Florida Atlantic University has found that public toilets when flushed after a person who is infected has used it could propel the SARS-CoV-2 virus five feet into the air, creating a high risk for users of public toilets.
The study team says that public restrooms are especially cause for concern for transmitting COVID-19 because they are relatively confined, experience heavy foot traffic and may not have adequate ventilation.
According to the study team, a variety of pathogens are usually found in stagnant water as well as in urine, faeces and vomit.
Respiratory droplets are the most prominent source of transmission COVID-19. However, flushing a toilet can generate large quantities of microbe-containing aerosols depending on the design, water pressure or flushing power of the toilet at public restrooms, the study team warns.
The study findings were published in the peer reviewed journal pHysics of fluids. https://aip.scitation.org/doi/full/10.1063/5.0040310
Dr Siddhartha Verma, co-author and an Assistant Professor in Florida Atlantic University's Department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering in the USA told Thailand Medical News, "After about three hours of tests involving more than 100 flushes, we found a substantial increase in the measured aerosol levels in the ambient environment with the total number of droplets generated in each flushing test ranging up to the tens of thousands."
The aerosol droplets were detected at heights of up to 5 feet for 20 seconds or longer after initiating the flush.
The study team detected a smaller number of droplets in the air when the toilet was flushed with a closed lid, although not by much, suggesting that aerosolized droplets escaped through small gaps between the cover and the seat.
Dr Verma added, "Both the toilet and urinal generated large quantities of droplets smaller than 3 micrometers in size, posing a significant transmission risk if they contain infectious microorganisms. Due to their small size, these droplets can remain suspended for a long time."
Importantly when dispersed widely through aerosolization, these pathogens can cause Ebola, norovirus that results in violent food poisoning, as well as Covid-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2, according to the study team.
For the study, the team once again put physics of fluids to the test to investigate droplets generated from flushing a toilet and a urinal in a public restroom under normal ventilation conditions.
In order to measure the droplets, they used a particle counter placed at various heights of the toilet and urinal to capture the size and number of droplets generated upon flushing.
Alarmingly the results of the study demonstrated how public restrooms could serve as hotbeds for airborne disease transmission, especially if they do not have adequate ventilation or if toilets do not have a lid or cover.
It should be noted that most public restrooms often are not equipped with toilet seat lids and urinals are not covered.
The study found that there was a 69.5 per cent increase in measured levels for particles sized 0.3 to 0.5 micrometres, a 209 per cent increase for particles sized 0.5 to 1 micrometres, and a 50 per cent increase for particles sized 1 to 3 micrometres.
Drc Manhar Dhanak, chair of Florida Atlantic University's Department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering, and professor and director of SeaTech further added, "The study suggests that incorporation of adequate ventilation in the design and operation of public spaces would help prevent aerosol accumulation in high occupancy areas such as public restrooms."
Thailand Medical News had already warned about potential risk of SARS-CoV-2 spread from public toilets since March 2020. https://www.thailandmedical.news/news/singapore-coronavirus-study-shows-that-virus-lingers-in-rooms-and-toilets
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