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Particle spread in toilet flush tracked in new study


If you thought flushing the toilet couldn’t be more disgusting, think again.

In a new experiment using bright green lasers and camera equipment, scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder were able to visualize the invisible airborne particles that are thrown into the air when an uncovered toilet is flushed .

While researchers have known for more than 60 years that these tiny particles are released into the air during rinsing, this study, published in Scientific Reports, is the first to directly visualize this to be able to measure how fast and how far the particles propagate.

Here’s the concerning part: these particles can carry pathogens, also known as bacteria, viruses or other disease-causing microorganisms, which would potentially expose the risks in public restrooms.

These tiny drops of water can carry pathogens such as E. coli, C. difficile, noroviruses and adenoviruses, and although many previous studies have shown that these pathogens can live in the toilet bowl for dozens flushing toilets, the potential increased risk of exposure may be cause for concern.

Scientists reported that in just eight seconds, the particles exploded at rocket speeds of 6.6 feet per second, reaching 4.9 feet above the toilet, with the largest droplets appearing to land on surfaces within seconds. seconds, while smaller ones seemed to linger in the air for minutes or even longer, depending on the study.

The researchers note the importance of understanding the effects of these particles in order to mitigate exposure.


“If it’s something you can’t see, it’s easy to pretend it doesn’t exist. But once you see these videos, you’ll never think of a toilet flush the same way again,” said John Crimeldi, the study’s lead author and professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering, in the study press release. “By creating dramatic visual images of this process, our study can play an important role in public health messaging.”

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