Science Condemns Public Restrooms

Bridget Mulroy
Will you use a public bathroom ever again after reading this?(txking/iStock)

An article published by Health Digest has sent an age-old debate into full swing. To go, or not to go; that is the question. Concerning the use of public toilets, males and females alike are forced to decide when the urge strikes while out in a public place.

Perhaps you thought this was a decision faced mostly by females since they don’t stand to urinate, but since no single human stands to defecate; the time is now for men AND women to settle the debate.

Before, the issue lay mainly around the cleanliness of public restrooms since some are in better shape than others. While it’s difficult to seek out a pristine facility in the immediate moment, people have developed make-shift hacks to facilitate the process.

For example, laying toilet paper to create a "nest" over a toilet seat as a sort of “barrier” between one’s bottom and the bare surface of the toilet seat.

Or perhaps you’ve heard of the practice colloquially known as “squatting,” “hovering,” or “crouching,” to urinate so the person executing the practice does not need to come into direct physical contact with the toilet.

While these resourceful hacks make total sense if someone needs to use a public bathroom and the toilet doesn’t meet their immediate sanitation standards, Health Digest had to go and throw a wrench into the mental struggle of this particular dilemma; because it is a dilemma when the need strikes. These developments could either completely rule out public bathrooms as an option (unlikely, just dramatic,) or force public places to start taking the disinfection of their restrooms more seriously.

An independent study done by Health [not affiliated with Health Digest] says this: “When you don’t completely sit down, your muscles are not completely relaxed,” says Carol Figuers, PT, EdD. “In order for the bladder to completely empty, the pelvic floor muscles have to be let go. As you squat over the seat,” she says. “Your pelvic floor muscles are probably still 30% or 40% tensed. When you stand back up, you’ll still have a little bit of urine left in there because the muscles didn’t completely relax. With pee left inside your bladder, you risk an accidental leak if you jump, cough, laugh or sneeze. Plus, that ‘old’ urine you’re carrying around can irritate the inside of the bladder and make you feel like you’ve gotta go more often or more urgently than you really do.”

So in addition to Health's research teaching people the dangers of "squatting," the idea now of using a public toilet has become laughable with Health Digest's latest findings.

Health Digest reports “researchers at Florida Atlantic University have found that public restrooms could be increasing airborne disease transmission, thanks to the power of aerosol droplets released with every flush.” Um, gross!

“Aerosolized droplets play a central role in the transmission of various infectious diseases, including COVID-19, and this latest research by our team of scientists provides additional evidence to support the risk of infection transmission in confined and poorly ventilated spaces," Stella Batalama, Ph.D., dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Florida Atlantic University.

Additionally, “not every illness will be spread through the air, but COVID-19 is most commonly spread in crowded places, through close contact, and in ‘confined and enclosed spaces with poor ventilation,’ according to the World Health Organization. Most public restrooms are small enough to have poor ventilation, and adding in the flush of a toilet pushing tiny droplets into the air can boost transmission potential, especially since the COVID-19 virus can be present in feces, which can end up expelled in the plume caused by a toilet flush (via Harvard Health Publishing). The risk of not only COVID-19 but other airborne diseases like ebola and norovirus does exist in poorly ventilated restrooms,” says Health Digest.

Public bathrooms are not our private bathrooms at home. Other people coming into the same space increases the risk of spreading these airborne bacteria significantly. While your aerosolized particles from flushing will not pose a risk to you, the risk increases in a restroom that sees lots of different people at once. Keep a mask on when entering a public bathroom and limit your time in there. Cutting down on the time you’re in a public bathroom also cuts down the risk of picking up unwanted bacteria and viruses.

No matter what you decide to do, whether it's to never step foot into a public restroom again for fear of being blasted with virus particles, or if you proceed into public restrooms with caution from now on, don’t forget the most important thing expected in any washroom: WASH YOUR HANDS!

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Working formerly as a ghostwriter for a well-known New York magazine, Bridget Mulroy won two prestigious writing awards. As a writer, she takes a keen interest in topics that impact people's lives and will leave no stone unturned to share a story. Each of Bridget Mulroy's publications on the NewsBreak platform explores change and encourages readers to think beyond the limitations of the world they thought they knew.

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