Flushing toilet with an open lid can spread Sars-Cov-2

Hyperaxion Jun 18, 2020

Simulations show that this common practice generates “clouds” of particles that stay in the air long enough to contaminate others.

Staying away from people, wearing a mask and washing your hands are essential measures to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. But there are other precautions to be taken into account – indoors, for example, make sure to flush the toilet with the lid closed.

The recommendation comes from a study by the American Institute of Physics, published on Tuesday (16) in the scientific journal Physics of Fluids. Sars-CoV-2 can survive in the human digestive tract and appear in the fecal matter of infected people. Although it is not yet known exactly whether this could be a pathway of contamination, the researchers decided to investigate how flushing the toilet can spread harmful microorganisms.

Flushing toilet with an open lid can spread Sars-Cov-2
(Credit: Unsplash).

The article explains that flushing the toilet creates a lot of turbulence and this can spread bacteria and viruses in general. For this investigation, the team used computer models that simulated the flow of water and air in a toilet and the resulting cloud of droplets, commonly called toilet plumes. They also simulated the movement of these particles when they were ejected.

The results showed that flushing creates vortexes that throw microorganisms into the air at a height of almost one meter, which can be inhaled or settle on surfaces. These droplets are so small that they float in the air for more than a minute.

Left: Vortex caused by common annular flushing. Right: Large-scale spread of virus particles after flushing. (Credit: J.-X. Wang / American Institute of Physics).

“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 study co-author Ji-Xiang Wang in a note.

The solution to this problem is to always close the lid before flushing. This decreases the spread of dangerous microorganisms in the environment. And of course: keep the bathroom (and all rooms in the house) always clean.

Related topics:

Coronavirus Covid-19

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