You already know how to avoid crowded places, wash your hands diligently, and never touch your face. Now, according to a new study that just published the American Institute of PhysicsWe will all have to add restrooms to our collective list of COVID-19 concerns.
Using computer simulations, the research team confirmed that flushing a toilet can send a “cloud” of infections. coronaviruscontaining aerosol drops in the air. According to the study’s calculations, these drops are large, widespread, and remain in the surrounding area for quite a long time. All in all, this suggests that someone else may well inhale the drops unknowingly and become infected.
It has been argued and declared incessantly that the coronavirus is super contagious and capable of spreading rapidly through aerosol drops released when people breathe, cough, etc. Well, recent research has indicated that the coronavirus is also very capable of staying active within our digestive tracts and appearing in the feces of infected individuals.
So the team behind this study decided to investigate the plausibility of COVID-19 spreading through the toilet flush. Unfortunately, they discovered that it is a very real possibility.
Every time a toilet flushes, all that swirling water sends tons of tiny drops of water into the air. It is not something that someone notices very often because it is happening on a microscopic scale. However, there have been several studies over the years that have indicated that it is at least possible for several viruses and bacteria strains spread through the toilet flush. The chances of actual transmission are slim for most of these pathogens, but the coronavirus is much more contagious than most viruses.
Computer simulations by the research team predicted the flow of water and air, as well as the resulting “droplet clouds” from two different types of toilets. The first type was a toilet with a single inlet for flushing water, and the second type was a toilet with two inlets intended to create a rotating flow.
Then, another model was used to calculate the movement of all aerosol droplets released into the air and the surrounding environment by the washing mechanisms.
The resulting findings leave little room for interpretation, the study authors say. With respect to a single inlet toilet, as the toilet flushes and water is poured into the container from one side, a series of vortices (plural for vortex) are created. These vortices propel the droplets up into the air just above the toilet bowl, and in some cases viral particles reach up to three feet above the toilet bowl. Once the viral droplets reach these heights, they can remain in the air for more than a minute before being inhaled by someone or fall and infect a nearby surface.
The results were even more surprising for dual-entry toilets. These models create even stronger vortices with more speed, propelling the viral droplets to even greater heights. In the two-inlet toilet simulations, nearly 60% of all droplets expelled reached heights well above the toilet seat.
“One can anticipate that the speed will be even higher when a toilet is used frequently, as in the case of a family toilet during a busy time or a public toilet serving a densely populated area,” says co-author Ji-Xiang Wang. , from Yangzhou University, in a Press release.
Of course, none of this is a problem, as long as you close the toilet lid before flushing. However, many public toilets in the United States do not have a lid, representing a potentially serious route of infection in public places across the country.
The complete study can be found here, published in Fluid Physics.