When you flush the toilet, do you close the lid? If you don’t, you are likely releasing a “toilet plume” into the air — which is essentially an aerosol spray filled with bacteria.
All that bubbling, swirling and splashing can aerosolize fecal waste, sending tiny particles airborne.
A study on hospital bathrooms found that the amount of those particles spiked after a toilet was flushed, and the concentration in the air remained high 30 minutes later.
Harpic, a company based in the United Kingdom that makes toilet cleaning products, said a recent poll of 2,000 adults in the UK revealed 55% of people do not close the toilet lid before they flush. The poll is part of the company’s #CloseTheLid campaign.
Toilet bowl water can remain contaminated for several flushes after becoming exposed to harmful pathogens. A 2000 study revealed some particles produced by flushing the toilet can reach the lower respiratory tract, which could cause an infection.
“Contaminated toilets have been clearly shown to produce large droplet and droplet nuclei bioaerosols during flushing, and research suggests that this toilet plume could play an important role in the transmission of infectious diseases for which the pathogen is shed in feces or vomit,” according to research from the American Journal of Infection Control.
A study published on June 16 simulated toilet plumes from flushing and found that a large number of particles rose above the toilet seat and lingered in the air.
Researchers have found that the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, can be shed in feces for up to a month after the illness. That’s longer than in respiratory samples, though how much of that time the virus could be causing infections and whether the virus has infected humans through fecal waste isn’t yet known.
The poll and #CloseTheLid campaign.
THE CONVERSATION and The Associated Press contributed to this report.