AsianScientist (Sep. 14, 2020) – In a study published in Physics of Fluids, researchers in China have shown that flushing the toilet or urinal in a public restroom can generate virus-laden aerosols.
The work, by a team from Yangzhou University, China, shows that public restrooms can potentially be points of viral transmission, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Other work has shown that both feces- and urine-based virus transmission is possible.
“To do this, we used a method of computational fluid dynamics to model the particle movement that occurs with the act of flushing,” said study co-author Associate Professor Liu Xiangdong. “The specific models are the volume of fluids model and discrete phase model.”
Flushing a urinal, much like flushing a toilet, involves an interaction between gas and liquid interfaces. Flushing causes a large spread of aerosol particles to be released from the urinal, which the researchers simulated and tracked.
What the simulations revealed is disturbing. The trajectory of the tiny particles ejected by flushing a urinal “manifests an external spread type, with more than 57 percent of the particles traveling away from the urinal,” said Liu.
But that’s not all. When men use urinals within a public restroom, these tiny particles can reach their thigh within 5.5 seconds when compared to the toilet flush, which takes 35 seconds to reach slightly higher. Particles from urinals, moreover, “show a more violent climbing tendency,” Liu said.
“The climbing speed is much faster than toilet flushing.”
Urinals are used more frequently within densely populated areas, and the researchers point out that particles will travel faster and farther, which poses a serious public health challenge.
This work underscores how important it is to wear a mask within public places but especially restrooms.
“From our work, it can be inferred that urinal flushing indeed promotes the spread of bacteria and viruses,” said Liu. “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.”
The article can be found at: Wang et al. (2020) Virus Transmission From Urinals.
Source: American Institute of Physics; Photo: Shutterstock.
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