The New York Times has a new report on the aerosol distribution of toilet flushing:
Scientists have found that in addition to clearing out whatever business you've left behind, flushing a toilet can generate a cloud of aerosol droplets that rises nearly three feet. Those droplets may linger in the air long enough to be inhaled by a shared toilet's next user, or land on surfaces in the bathroom.
This toilet plume isn't just gross. In simulations, it can carry infectious coronavirus particles that are already present in the surrounding air or recently shed in a person's stool. The research, published Tuesday in the journal Physics of Fluids, adds to growing evidence that the coronavirus can be passed not only through respiratory droplets, but through virus-laden feces, too.
This is just the latest example of ways that the coronavirus has illuminated just how overwhelming the spread of germs in everyday life can be. I think it's safe to say that most people who were overly concerned about handwashing and air-bound droplets of fecal bacteria were typically written off as "germaphobic." And while we knew, scientifically, that credit card machines and concerts and stability bars on trains were all probably gross, they never seemed to be that big of a problem … until this pandemic started, making us all so hyper-aware of transmission.
It's very possible that all of these things will continue to be safe-ish, as long as you practice the very basic due diligence around your own personal sanitation — but the fact that we just don't know, and are suddenly so attuned to our knowledge gaps, is truly astounding. Some day, there will (probably) be a coronavirus vaccine; but even then, there will be a lot of people who are understandably hesitant to go back to doing things the way they used to, simply because they know too much now.
Flushing the Toilet May Fling Coronavirus Aerosols All Over [Knvul Sheikh / The New York Times]