Friday, March 22, 2013

Flushing the Toilet- A Potential Health Hazard

I am by no means the most senior or experienced physician at Virginia Commonwealth University but I have been at it long enough to meaningfully say that I have never heard of research on this one before: toilet flushing aerosols as an infectious diseases risk. Here is an article published on the matter in the American Journal of Infection Control.

The authors searched the  peer-reviewed scientific literature to identify articles related to aerosol production during toilet flushing, as well as epidemiologic studies examining the potential role of toilets in infectious disease outbreaks.

The findings are intriguing and suggest that potentially infectious aerosols may be produced in  during flushing. Aerosolization can continue through multiple flushes thereby. Some of the aerosols desiccate to become droplet nuclei and remain adrift in the air currents. 

Of note, however, no studies demonstrated or refuted toilet plume-related disease transmission.

The aerosols generated by flushing a toilet could represent a risk for transmission although the significance remains unknown. I still prefer a flushing toilet over a non-flushing latrine however!

As always, after flushing the toilet, wash your hands and perhaps hold your breath.

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