While previous research points to public toilets as a potential risk Covid-19 transmission due to the possibility of poor ventilation, overcrowded toilets and toilet flushing transmit virus into the air. This has all been refuted by the Australian National University.
The new study, led by Professor Sotiris Vardoulakis, investigates the real impact of using public toilets over the past 18 months and concludes that there is no solid evidence to suggest airborne transmission of pathogens in public toilets.
The peer-reviewed study, published in the Science of Total Environment, examined 38 studies from 13 countries published from 2000 to 2020 to investigate the risk of public toilets from transmitting viruses and bacteria.
The researchers investigated several possible modes of transmission in public restrooms including inhalation, surface contact and fecal-oral.
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Researchers did find some risk of aerosolization from toilet flushing and use of hand-drying systems in public toilets, but the likelihood of transmission was considered low as long as hand and bathroom hygiene was maintained.
A separate study, from the University of Florida Atlantic School of Engineering and Computer Science, also found that apart from the smallest aerosols, relatively larger aerosols pose a risk in poorly ventilated areas even though they experience stronger gravitational deposition.
“They often undergo rapid evaporation in the surrounding environment and resulting in a decrease in size and mass, or eventually the formation of a droplet nucleus, may allow microbes to remain suspended for several hours,” the study said.
However, Professor Vardoulakis stressed that there is no evidence to suggest public toilets have a direct impact on the transmission of Covid-19 and people should not be afraid to use them if necessary, but taking precautions can help.
“But if you minimize your time in the bathroom, wash and dry your hands properly, and don’t use your cell phone, eat or drink, then the use of public toilets remains a low risk,” explains Professor Vardoulakis.