Shut the Lid on Toilet Plumes

As more people venture out, shops re-open and small groups may choose to gather, understanding how the virus spreads and ways we can protect ourselves and others continues to play an important role in curbing a spike in COVID-19 cases.  Besides frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, maintaining a safe distance or wearing a face mask, taking precautions in the lavatory may also help prevent infection. 

According to research published in the journal Gastroenterology, COVID-19 was found to be present in the gastrointestinal tract, even after the virus had cleared from the respiratory tract.  The digestive system may also be a route of transmission by people who are asymptomatic, are in the early stages of infection or have mild symptoms. These findings suggest that fecal to oral route of transmission could be possible.  Because toilets produce aerosol particles when flushed and bacteria can remain airborne for hours travelling up to six feet, it’s important to always close the toilet lid before flushing and wash hands thoroughly after using the bathroom.  

In a perfect world, the toilet would be housed in its own small room within the bathroom far away from sink handles, toothbrushes or cups.  Using disinfecting wipes on all high touch surfaces and cleaning the toilet bowl at least once a week can help reduce bacteria.  If you are planning a bathroom renovation any time soon, a separate “water closet” might be a consideration.   

Designers are also predicting continued increased bidet sales and a spike in the use of antimicrobial materials like copper, brass and bronze for hardware and fixtures.  No-touch fixtures could also become more popular in home design in the coming months and years following the pandemic. The mudroom, where outdoor clothes, shoes, masks and gloves can be dropped may also make a comeback.

Although human waste may not be a subject for pleasant conversation, the news is not all bad about feces. Researchers are also using samples from local sewage treatment plants to predict future outbreaks.  In a recent study, sewage showed a spike in coronavirus about a week before testing on New Haven residents confirmed a wave of infection.  With early detection, measures can be implemented to help stop the spread, save lives and protect the most vulnerable populations while lessening the burden on the healthcare system.