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Next time you use the loo, be sure to put the seat down before flushing – especially if you’re using a public toilet or one within your social “bubble”.
Keeping flushes contained could reduce the risk of Covid-19 spreading, a new study suggests. Researchers used a computer simulation to show how a flushing toilet can create a “cloud of virus-containing aerosol droplets”. They found the droplets are likely to be large and widespread, and last long enough that they could be breathed in by others.
Researchers from Yangzhou University in China wanted to investigate the potential impact of toilet flushes, because recent studies have shown coronavirus can survive in the human digestive tract and show up in faeces of those infected.
“Blocking the path of faecal–oral transmission, which occurs commonly in toilet usage, is of fundamental importance in suppressing the spread of viruses,” they said.
Toilet flushing “creates a great deal of turbulence”, the researchers. The study used precise computer models to simulate water and air flows in a flushing toilet, then monitor the resulting droplet cloud.
The results, published in the journal Physics of Fluids, suggest droplets may be carried to a height of nearly three feet (0.9 metres) from the ground, where they might then be inhaled or settle on 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 co-author Ji-Xiang Wang, of Yangzhou University.
The study didn’t show the likeliness of catching coronavirus in this way and the most common form of transmission is still known to be droplets from coughs and sneezes. It might also be impossible to close the lid in public toilets, where the loo may be lid-free.
Still, while in your home or someone else’s, it’s a good idea to put the lid down before you flush anyway. Just imagine the potential bacteria on your toothbrush if not.