Flushing the toilet without a lid can make you sick, researchers find
In a new experiment, scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder were able to visualize airborne particles, invisible to the naked eye, that are shot into the air when a toilet is flushed without a lid. (University of Colorado Boulder, YouTube)
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TORONTO — If you thought flushing the toilet couldn’t get any dirtier, think again.
In a new experiment with bright green lasers and camera equipment, scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder were able to visualize airborne particles, invisible to the naked eye, being shot into the air when a toilet is flushed without a lid.
While researchers have known for more than 60 years that these tiny particles are released into the air when flushed, this study, published in Scientific Reports, is the first to directly visualize this to measure how fast and far the particles spread.
Here’s the worrying part: These particles can carry pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, or other microorganisms, that can cause illness, potentially posing a risk in public bathrooms.
These tiny water droplets can contain pathogens such as E. coli, C. difficile, noroviruses and adenoviruses, and while many previous studies have shown that these pathogens can remain in the toilet bowl for dozens of flushes, the increase in potential risk of exposure may be cause for concern.
The scientists reported that the particles shot out at rocket speeds of 2 meters per second in just eight seconds, reaching 1.5 meters above the toilet. minutes or even longer, the study found.
The researchers point to the importance of understanding the effects of these particles to reduce exposure. “If it’s something you can’t see, it’s easy to pretend it doesn’t exist. But once you see these videos, you’ll never think about flushing a toilet the same way again,” says lead author John Criminaldi. of the study and professor of civil, environmental and construction engineering, in the study’s press release. “By creating dramatic visual images of this process, our study can play an important role in public health messages.”
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