By now, you probably know the basics of preventing COVID-19 from spreading. A bathroom that is public or shared outside of your own home is a unique environment in many ways – and experts are increasingly interested in the potential of bathrooms to promote the transmission of the coronavirus.
What is the difference between shared toilets? For one, a bathroom is usually a small, enclosed space that isn’t well ventilated. We know this will make the coronavirus easier to spread. Second, they are bathrooms that you share with people you don’t live with. This means that you may be exposed to new sources of COVID-19 thanks to shared surfaces that may or may not be cleaned regularly.
Finally, there is the toilet flag, which describes what happens after you flush the toilet: the flushing power causes tiny particles of everything in the toilet ̵
Still, the idea of COVID-19 in a bathroom, potentially spreading via a toilet flag, is definitely worrying. We have research to suggest that particles of the coronavirus are present in the feces and that, given the right circumstances, airborne transmission of the virus over short distances is possible.
In addition, researchers published a study in June Physics of the fluid This showed that after flushing, COVID-19 particles in toilets may spread above the toilet seat. For this study, researchers created simulations of the movement of virus particles in response to flushing two different types of toilets. Their simulations showed that up to 40% to 60% of virus particles rose above the toilet seat after flushing, including some particles that went up to three and a half feet in the air. Even in the 35 to 70 seconds after flushing, the particles continued to rise, the researchers say. However, this was only a simulation and no guarantee that virus particles would behave exactly the same in a real-life scenario. Nor does this study prove that this type of toilet flag can actually make someone sick.
As recently as this week, researchers found that even urinals can produce aerosolized particles. (Yes, particles of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 were also found in the urine.) For this study, which was also published in Physics of the fluidThe researchers used the same type of model as the toilet flush researchers to study the potential of virus particles in urine to float upward after flushing a urinal. Their results “suggest that an alarming upward current with strong turbulence can be generated,” the authors write. But again, this is a simulation and not an observation of what actually happens in real life.
We have no conclusive evidence that toilet clouds can actually lead to coronavirus transmission, or that exposure to the particles produced by toilet clouds could actually make you sick. If you are concerned about this, you can just close the toilet lid when you are flushing if you aren’t already. (And experts generally recommend it.)
Also, wearing a mask in a public restroom seems like a pretty good idea, which hopefully you do whenever you find yourself in a public place. In fact, this is something experts have recommended themselves in the past, especially for those who are away from home work or travel and may need a shared or public toilet.