Study Finds Flushing the Toilet Could Spray Coronavirus Particles Into the Air

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Wearing face masks, washing your hands, and putting the toilet lid down – these are all behaviors that may help prevent the transmission of coronavirus.

A new study by a team in Yangzhou University in China found that putting the toilet lid down prior to flushing may prevent the spread of COVID-19, per CNN.

A computer model showed that after using the toilet, flushing causes a cloud of little particles containing fecal matter to get sent nearly three feet into the air, according to the journal Physics of Fluids.

These particles of fecal matter may contain the novel virus and may linger long enough for the next person to inhale or land on shared bathroom surfaces.

"One can foresee that the velocity will be even higher when a toilet is used frequently, such as in the case of a family toilet during a busy time or a public toilet serving a densely populated area," said study researcher, Ji-Xiang Wang of Yangzhou University.

Not only is it possible for coronavirus to potentially spread, but it’s also a breeding ground for other viruses such as norovirus.

"Fecal shedding seems to occur in patients without gastrointestinal symptoms, which could enable asymptomatic individuals with no respiratory symptoms to be a source of fecal transmission," the study added.

“The aerosols generated by toilets are something that we’ve kind of known about for a while, but many people have taken for granted,” said Joshua L. Santarpia, a professor of pathology and microbiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center who took part in the research, per The New York Times. “This study adds a lot of the evidence that everyone needs in order to take better action.”

It remains unknown where or not public and shared toilets are a major point of transmission, but since it's impossible to keep bathrooms sanitized at all times and sharing toilets is largely unavoidable, the study suggests taking precautionary measures including keeping the toilet seat down when flushing, cleaning the toilet seat, and washing your hands immediately after you use the toilet.

“While this study is unable to demonstrate that these measures will reduce transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, many other viruses are transmitted through the fecal-oral route, so these are good hygiene practices to have anyway,” the study noted.

Users should also wash hands after coming in contact with high-touch surfaces like stall handles, doorknobs, and faucets.

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