Tuesday 22 September 2020

Using a public restroom? Mask up!

Think you don't need to worry about COVID-19 while using a public restroom? A group of researchers from Yangzhou University in China recently reported that flushing public restroom toilets can release clouds of virus-laden aerosols for you to potentially inhale and flushing urinals does likewise.


The researchers tracked virus-laden particle movements when urinals are flushed.


The researchers' work clearly shows public restrooms can be dangerous places for potentially becoming infected from a virus, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Other work has shown that both feces- and urine-based virus transmission is possible.


Flushing a urinal, much like flushing a toilet, involves an interaction between gas and liquid interfaces. The result of the flushing causes a large spread of aerosol particles to be released from the urinal. This has been simulated and tracked.


What the simulations revealed is disturbing. The trajectory of the tiny particles ejected by flushing a urinal manifests an external spread type, with more than 57% of the particles traveling away from the urinal.  When men use urinals within a public restroom, these tiny particles can reach their thigh within 5.5 seconds when compared to the toilet flush, which takes 35 seconds to reach slightly higher. Particles from urinals also show a more violent climbing tendency.


Urinals are used more frequently within densely populated areas, and the researchers point out that particles will travel faster and farther, which poses a serious public health challenge.



This work underscores how important it is to wear a mask within public places but especially restrooms.




Ji-Xiang Wang, Yun-Yun Li, Xiang-Dong Liu, Xiang Cao. Virus transmission from urinals. Physics of Fluids, 2020; 32 (8): 081703 DOI: 10.1063/5.0021450

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (http://www.pharmamicroresources.com/)

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