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Using a Public Restroom? Science Says Wear Your Mask Even If You’re Alone

This just in: COVID-19 can spread from toilets.


Right now, we’re all doing our best to stay clean and safe amidst the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. And while Quarantine regulations have eased up in many states, and many of us are returning to the outside world, there’s one place that scientists say we need to take extra precautions. If you’re using a public restroom, COVID-19 could be a threat, according to new research.

A new study has emerged which shows that public restrooms may harbor and spread the virus, and the researchers suggest that it’s extremely important to wear your mask when using them, even if you are the only one in there. The study, conducted by the American Institute of Physics, demonstrated how particles of COVID-19 could be transmitted from restroom toilets and urinals.

The researchers aimed to determine how dangerous the threat of COVID-19 really is in public restrooms, and their conclusions, though cringeworthy, are good to know as many of us get back into the world. What they found was that flushing restroom toilets and urinals can release clouds of virus-laden aerosols that can land on your person or be potentially inhaled.

Other earlier research has shown that COVID-19 is transmittable through urine and feces, but this is the first to specifically examine how it works with toilets and urinals. “To do this, we used a method of computational fluid dynamics to model the particle movement that occurs with the act of flushing,” said one of the study authors, Xiangdong Liu, in a press release. They used a simulation to track the distance and speed of travel of aerosol particles during and after a flush.

When we flush a toilet or a urinal, gas and liquid react to create pressure that can send particles flying into the air. Through their simulation, the researchers were able to see that a urinal flush only took about five seconds to spread into the air and travel as high as the thigh! And when it came to toilets, it took about 35 seconds for particles to spread and travel, and they reached slightly higher than the thigh.

So while it may seem like common sense to wear your mask in public spaces, take extra caution when using restrooms. Just as well, be sure that you’re not touching your clothes with your hands and then touching your face after using the restroom to keep your risk low. And of course, always wash your hands thoroughly and follow the rest of the CDC’s guidelines to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

We’re wishing you a safe and healthy rest of the summer!

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