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Hygiene: Why you should close the toilet lid when flushing

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Hygiene: Why you should close the toilet lid when flushing

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Why you should close the toilet lid when flushing

Status: 12.04.2024 | Reading time: 3 minutes

Clean glasses – traces of the residue could potentially contain pathogenic bacteria and viruses

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If you flush the toilet while the toilet is open, droplets and bacteria are distributed in high concentrations over the walls and floors. Researchers have now developed a new way to prevent this: the water only flows when the lid is closed. The quiet little place remains surprisingly clean.

An automatic toilet flush that only works when the toilet seat is closed could reduce the number of harmful microbes in hospitals. This is shown by an experiment by a South Korean research group. The relatively simple system ensures that significantly fewer infectious microorganisms are released through rinsing.

As early as 2022, a study published in “Scientific Reports” made it clear how far tiny droplets in the form of aerosols are thrown into the air when you flush the toilet: Within eight seconds, the particles were transported up to one and a half meters and could Contaminate floors, walls, sinks and other surfaces within a wide radius. Aerosols can also reach a high concentration, especially in public toilets, as another study showed in 2021, the results of which were published in the journal “Physics of Fluids”.

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This is not only unsavory, but may also be unhealthy: traces of our waste that are distributed in the air can potentially contain pathogenic bacteria and viruses. It is therefore helpful to close the toilet lid before flushing. The Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA) also advises: “Closing the lid is intended to prevent pathogens from being sprayed into the environment when flushing.”

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While for most people with a healthy immune system, the idea of ​​aerosols from feces usually causes a certain feeling of disgust, in the hospital the topic takes on more central importance. Some of the infectious particles produced when a toilet is flushed can enter the lower respiratory tract and cause infection. In addition, a person can become infected with intestinal germs if they first touch a contaminated surface and then touch their nose or mouth.

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To address this problem, a South Korean research group has developed a new toilet system for clinical use. This system flushes automatically, but only when the lid is closed. The scientists will present their system at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID Global Congress), which will take place in Barcelona at the end of April.

The effectiveness of automatic flushing was previously tested in a hospital in Seoul with almost 3,000 beds. Eight bathrooms were selected for the study, half of which received the new system and half of which did not. Eight petri dishes containing so-called blood agar were placed around the toilets. Blood agar is used in microbiology as a breeding ground for microorganisms.

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Less than half as many bacterial colonies

A bowl was placed over the water tank, one on each side of the toilet and three in front of the toilet at 13, 30 and 45 centimeters away. There were also two bowls on the toilet seat and on the toilet seat. Then it was flushed, either with the toilet lid open or – with the automatic system – with the toilet lid closed.

After each rinse, the suspended particles were allowed to settle on the surface of the Petri dishes for 90 minutes. They were then collected and incubated for two days. During this time, the microbes in the blood agar grew into measurable colonies.

The results were compared for the toilets with and without automatic flushing. Overall, the analyzes showed that, on average across all sites, fewer than half as many bacterial colonies were found on the surfaces around the toilets with automatic flushing as on the toilets without these devices (6 versus 14 colonies).

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In order to display embedded content, your revocable consent to the transmission and processing of personal data is necessary, as the providers of the embedded content require this consent as third party providers [In diesem Zusammenhang können auch Nutzungsprofile (u.a. auf Basis von Cookie-IDs) gebildet und angereichert werden, auch außerhalb des EWR]. By setting the switch to “on”, you agree to this (revocable at any time). This also includes your consent to the transfer of certain personal data to third countries, including the USA, in accordance with Art. 49 (1) (a) GDPR. You can find more information about this. You can revoke your consent at any time using the switch and privacy at the bottom of the page.

“Our study highlights the importance of closing the lid before flushing and installing automatic flushing devices to reduce contamination of toilet surfaces,” says lead author Jihye Park from Asan Medical Center in Seoul. “We will now install automatic flushing devices in all toilets in the hospital along with automatic UV disinfection to reduce the spread of infections.”

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