In a new experiment, scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder were able to visualize airborne particles, invisible to the naked eye, being shot into the air when an uncovered toilet is flushed. (University of Colorado Boulder, YouTube)
Estimated reading time: 2-3 minutes
TORONTO — If you thought flushing couldn’t get more gross, think again.
In a new experiment using bright green lasers and camera equipment, scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder they were able to visualize airborne particles, invisible to the naked eye, being shot 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 when rinsing, this study, published in Scientific Reports, is the first to directly visualize this so that we can measure how fast and far the particles travel. .
Here’s the concerning part: These particles can carry pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, or other microorganisms, that can cause illness, which could pose an exposure risk in public restrooms.
These tiny water droplets can carry pathogens such as E. coli, C. difficile, norovirus, and adenovirus, and while many previous studies have shown that these pathogens can live in the toilet bowl for dozens of flushes, the increased potential risk of exposure may be cause for concern.
The scientists reported that in just eight seconds the particles were shot 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 in seconds, while the smallest small ones seemed to linger in the air for minutes or even longer, the study found.
The researchers point out the importance of understanding the effects of these particles 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 about flushing the toilet the same way again,” said John Criminaldi, lead author. of the study and professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering, in the study’s 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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