Flushing a toilet can generate large quantities of microbe-containing aerosols depending on the design, water pressure or flushing power of the toilet. A variety of pathogens are usually found in stagnant water as well as in urine, feces and vomit. 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.
Respiratory droplets are the most prominent source of transmission for COVID-19, however, alternative routes may exist given the discovery of small numbers of viable viruses in urine and stool samples. 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.
A team of scientists from Florida Atlantic University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science 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. 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.
Results of the study, published in the journal Physics of Fluids , demonstrate 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.
Read more at Florida Atlantic University