Hospital toilet flushing during patient care can lead to spread of pathogens

A study, published in Antimicrobial Resistance & Infection Control, quantified the particles and bioaerosols produced from flushing a hospital toilet during routine patient care.

Researchers measured particle and bioaerosol concentrations in hospital bathrooms across three sampling conditions — no waste no flush, no waste with flush and fecal waste with flush. They measured the concentrations with a particle counter bioaerosol sampler both before and after a toilet flushing event at distances of 0.15, 0.5 and 1 meter from the toilet.

The study shows particle concentrations measured before and after the flush were significantly different. In particular, bioaerosol concentrations when flushing fecal waste were found to be significantly greater than background concentrations. The particles aerosolized include microorganisms remaining from previous use or from fecal wastes.

The study suggests aerosols generated may remain for longer than 30 minutes post toilet flush. It also suggests toilet flushing is a source of bioaerosols that may result in transmission of pathogenic microorganisms.

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