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Posted Mar 02 2010 7:59am

Bacteria sprayed into the air when a toilet is flushed can travel up to eight feet!

When a toilet is flushed, miniscule droplets are propelled into the air outwards and upwards, landing on any available surfaces within approximately six to eight feet. Known as the aerosol effect, the problem was identified way back in the seventies, yet many of us are possibly totally unaware of it. If you stop and think about it, of course, it seems fairly obvious, and as an oral expert from Lloyds Pharmacy recently described it, ‘stomach churning’!

The implications are obvious too. The ‘available surfaces’ alluded to above can be anything from the toilet roll to your toothbrush – most of us leave these uncovered in the bathroom – and even your lungs. It seems that the maximum dispersal is not at the actual time of the flush but shortly afterwards once the water has left the bowl. Beating a hasty retreat after flushing therefore minimizes the chances of the bacteria laden vapour landing on you, though staying long enough to thoroughly wash your hands is advisable too. Apparently many of us either neglect to wash our hands at all or give them a cursory few second rinse under cold water. Ideally hands should be well lathered under hot water and scrubbed vigorously for thirty seconds. The effects can be limited by lowering the toilet lid before flushing which also give you breathing space to wash your hands. Research from Manchester University identified that more than one hundred million bacteria could be living in your toothbrush so these should be kept in a medicine cupboard or otherwise enclosed. Ecoli, candida, streptococcus, staphylococcus, hepatitis A, shigella, and the common cold virus are some of the more ‘familiar’ bacteria identified.

Horrendous as the idea of faecal particles and the attendant bacteria is, with healthy immune systems and good hygiene after a visit to the loo, most of us won’t become sick.

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