Jason Tetro is known as The Germ Guy. He offers his unique perspective on our mind-boggling, invisible microscopic world and how it affects our lives. He has co-edited The Human Microbiome Handbook, which provides an academic assessment of the impact of microbes on human health. The following is from his 2016 book The Germ Files: The Surprising Ways Microbes Can Improve Your Health and Life (and How to Protect Yourself from the Bad Ones).
Tetro goes into detail on those nasty bio-hazards in our daily toilet flushes and the best ways to stop these microbial assailants:
“Do you close the toilet lid before you flush? Some people seem to forget there are two covers for the toilet (well, at home at least). Others think the lid is there mainly for aesthetic reasons, or to provide a seat or keep a pet from drinking the water.
“But there is a greater purpose to the lid: it keeps the bacteria in the bowl. When you flush, the rush of water creates a flurry of aerosols that can travel up to two meters from the surface of the toilet water. What’s in those droplets? Well, it’s whatever might have been in the bowl at the time. For an average bowel movement, this could mean hundreds to thousands of bacteria and viruses. If it’s watery, the number can be even higher. Naturally, there aren’t enough bacteria to cause infection, but in some cases – say, a virus that causes diarrhea and vomiting – one open-lid flush can be enough to spread the disease.
“Here’s where it gets a little troublesome. Those droplets can end up on surfaces like the sink, the taps, the floor and yes, the toothbrush. Does this mean a lidless toilet dooms us to illness? Not really, because most of us have the proper immunity to keep us healthy. Yet in places such as hospitals, where people are far more susceptible to infections, this accumulation of bacteria and viruses can be troublesome. Without regular cleaning with disinfectants, a toilet stall may become the source of an outbreak. When you’re at home, you should get in the habit of closing the lid every time you flush. If you’re in a place where there is no lid, like a public bathroom, just hold your breath and get out of the stall as soon as possible. If you happen to be following someone, give it a good thirty seconds before you head in. The droplets will settle, and the air, albeit stinky, will be safe to breathe.”
Jason Tetro, The Germ Files: The Surprising Ways Microbes Can Improve Your Health and Life (and How to Protect Yourself from the Bad Ones), Doubleday Canada, 2016
More from Jason Tetro: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/jason-tetro/