Flushing a Public Toilet? Be Sure to Wear a Mask

MONDAY, Aug. 24, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Flushing public toilets or urinals can spew clouds of particles filled with germs into the air, including the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, Chinese researchers warn.

That's why wearing a mask is a must if you need to use a public restroom. Both urine- and feces-based virus transmission is possible.

A study by Yangzhou University researchers found public urinals could be especially hazardous. The findings were recently published in the journal Physics of Fluids.

"Wearing a mask should be mandatory within public restrooms during the pandemic, and anti-diffusion improvements are urgently needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19," researcher Xiangdong Liu said in a journal news release.

Using computer simulations, Liu's team found that more than 57% of aerosol particles released when a urinal is flushed travel.

Those contaminated particles can reach a man's thighs within 5.5 seconds. In comparison, it takes 35 seconds for particles from a flushed toilet to reach slightly higher. "The climbing speed is much faster than toilet flushing," Liu said.

Urinals are used more often within densely populated areas, and particles from them travel faster and farther than those from toilets, posing a serious public health challenge, researchers said.

The findings highlight the importance of wearing a mask in public places -- especially restrooms.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on coronavirus protection.

SOURCE: Physics of Fluids, news release, Aug. 18, 2020

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