An “alarming” new study suggests the mere act of flushing the loo has the potential to launch thousands of coronavirus particles into the air, making the whole ‘living through a pandemic’ thing even worse to think about.
The paper, published in the Physics of Fluids journal, says that simulated toilet flushes were capable of stirring up 6,000 little droplets and aerosol particles, with many of them launching up and out of the bowl itself.
While that’s gross to consider, things get gnarlier when you consider the known potential of coronaviruses to transmit via faeces, which is a “common transmission channel for most viruses.”
The most concerning scenario looks like this: an infected person uses the loo and flushes, projecting virus-laden droplets into the air. The droplets then settle on other surfaces – or linger in the air – posing a risk for other folks who use the toilet at a later point in time.
“The daily flow of people in a public washroom is stunningly large: thus, a confirmed case may cause a massive number of infections,” the paper states.
“For these reasons, investigation of toilets in the context of epidemic prevention is imperative.”
While there’s way more research to be done on SARS-CoV-2 and how effectively it spreads through turds, the authors state “blocking the path of fecal–oral transmission can reduce the probability of cross-infection in surrounding areas.”
In short: we don’t know exactly how capable this coronavirus is of spreading through inhaled toilet droplets, but it’s probably a good idea to reduce those dispersals where possible.
Put the lid down and wash your hands, folks. Read the paper here.