What You Didn’t Know About Toilets But Should

Full disclosure. I’m a borderline germaphobe. This is to say that I’ve already been, let’s say cautious, about denting the door of a public restroom, to begin with. It also means that wading through the research of this story to present it to you wasn’t exactly easy for me and it’ll probably have a bit of an impact on you. But in the context of the more you know, you probably should. 

To date, the grossest experience I’ve had in life was seeing normal surfaces in a typical work environment under a black light as part of my ServSafe certification. That was over twenty years ago. It’s what converted me into a borderline germaphobe. Warning, the thought of what I’m getting ready to share is intellectually almost as impactful. Without traveling too far down unhappy mental paths, I’d think it’s safe to say that our two biggest concerns about a public toilet come down to the seat and what’s in it. We want both to appear clean. Now, this is where the story takes a turn. I’m not going where you’re likely suspecting next. In the effort to study all things coronavirus, a study published in the journal of Physics of Fluids is compelling for all the wrong reasons independent of COVID-19. 

It’s been known that COVID-19 can be spread by wastewater. What you probably hadn’t suspected is that the air could be filled with, well wastewater. We’ve heard a lot about droplets and the spread of them during the pandemic. They come into play with this story. According to the study, the average toilet studied spreads fecal fragments. The act of flushing sends particles of what’s in the toilet three feet into the air and often on surfaces as well. In the study, they demonstrated how it was possible for non-infected people to breathe in droplets containing COVID-19 minutes after someone had used the facility. This is where it no longer is about the virus for me. As bad as that may be, think about what we might inhale the rest of the time? And on the surfaces near these facilities. 

Ironically, this research might have illustrated how many contagions spread in society. It may explain those times you became ill but couldn’t figure out how it happened. It might make you appreciate the idea of wearing a mask in public a bit more. But it also might make you think twice or three times before using a public facility. Btw, there was another takeaway. The lid. Closing the lid on the toilet is the key. This begins today for me.

Photo by: Getty Images

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