Did you know that when a toilet is flushed, a plume of aerosolized matter spreads into the air above the toilet? This can impact air quality and potentially spread infectious agents onto other surfaces in the bathroom. This blog post will explore what can be done to reduce community- and hospital-acquired infections caused by this phenomenon.
1. How Toilets Spread Infections:
1.1 Harboring Pathogens:
The introduction of public sanitation, including toilets, has been recognized as one of the most impactful advances in the control of spreading communicable infections and diseases. However, the toilets commonly used today in various settings, including private homes, community areas, and healthcare facilities, can harbor dangerous pathogens such as E. Coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and other bacteria and fungi. These pathogens can be spread through the air and on surfaces, contributing to hospital- and community-acquired infections. In multiple studies, scientists have found that a plethora of pathogens are dispersed into the air and onto surfaces when a toilet is flushed. These particles can settle on the toilet seat surface, flushing handle, and other areas of the room where the toilet is located. While proper hand hygiene has been shown to reduce disease transmission significantly, there is the potential for particle inhalation, which can lead to someone acquiring an infection.
1.2 The Impact of Lid-Down Flushing: Flushing toilets with the lid down can reduce airborne bacteria by 50%. Lid-down flushing is effective in two ways:
1. Firstly, it prevents the escape of aerosolized particles. When a toilet is flushed with the lid up, aerosolized matter containing bacteria is released into the air. Flushing with the lid down contains these particles within the toilet bowl, reducing their dispersal and airborne transmission.
2. Secondly, lid-down flushing minimizes the spread of bacteria present on the toilet surface. Flushing with the lid up can cause water and bacteria to splash onto surrounding surfaces, increasing the risk of contamination. The closed lid acts as a barrier, preventing the spread of bacteria from the toilet surface.
By implementing lid-down flushing protocols, we can significantly reduce airborne bacteria and minimize the spread of bacteria in the bathroom, contributing to improved infection control.
2. Toilet Technology Being Developed:
2.1 Waterless Toilets:
Waterless toilets, known as dry or composting toilets, have shown promise in reducing disease transmission. They operate without water for flushing, which can minimize the release and spread of pathogens. Studies suggest lower rates of gastrointestinal infections in households using waterless toilets compared to traditional flush toilets. Similarly, in healthcare facilities, waterless toilets have the potential to reduce hospital-acquired infections by mitigating contamination and minimizing the generation of plumes. Further research is needed to understand the benefits fully, but waterless toilets promise to improve infection control in various settings.
2.2 HVAC and Ventilation Modifications:
Enhancing infection control in lavatories can be achieved through specific modifications to HVAC and ventilation systems. Here are some practical examples and suggestions:
By implementing these modifications, lavatories can benefit from improved air circulation, enhanced filtration, and reduced contamination risks, thereby contributing to better infection control measures.
2.3 Surface Engineered Disinfection:
1. Automated UV Surface Decontamination in Unoccupied Toilets:
2. Copper Surfaces:
2.4 Combining Infection Prevention Approaches:
Combining multiple approaches for a comprehensive infection prevention strategy is important to effectively reduce the spread of infections. By implementing a range of measures, we can significantly enhance our ability to control the transmission of pathogens. Let's explore some key considerations when combining these approaches:
By combining these approaches and addressing potential challenges, we can establish robust infection prevention measures that effectively reduce the spread of infections and promote a safer environment for communities and healthcare facilities.
Toilets have been recognized as both contributors to and potential targets for infection control. The spread of community- and hospital-acquired infections through toilets is a significant concern. This blog post explored various approaches to reduce infection transmission and improve infection control in toilets.
By adopting best practices in toilet design, maintenance, and user behavior, we can make significant strides in preventing the spread of infections. Lid-down flushing reduces the release of aerosolized particles and limits the spread of bacteria on toilet surfaces. Waterless toilets eliminate the need for water and minimize the generation of plumes altogether. HVAC and ventilation modifications enhance air circulation and filtration, reducing the presence of airborne pathogens.
Combining these infection prevention approaches creates a synergistic effect that maximizes the effectiveness of infection control. Whether in households, community settings, or healthcare facilities, these measures can significantly reduce the risk of infection transmission and contribute to safer environments.
As we move forward, it is essential to prioritize the implementation of these infection prevention measures. Investing in toilet technology, promoting best practices, and educating users on proper hygiene practices are crucial steps toward creating healthier communities and reducing the burden of hospital-acquired infections.
Remember, infection prevention is a collective responsibility. Each of us has a role to play in maintaining clean and hygienic toilet environments. Together, we can make a difference in reducing the spread of infections and creating safer spaces for all.
Take action today by implementing these best practices and spreading awareness about the importance of infection control in toilets. Let us strive for a future where safe and hygienic toilets become the norm, protecting our communities and promoting overall well-being.
Thank you for reading and joining us in this important mission!
We have finally obtained pictures of all our award winners with their awards, and we are excited to share them with you.
Department of Materials Engineering, The University of British Columbia, Dr. Edouard Asselin, Professor and Dr. Amanda Clifford, Assistant Professor.
Our Executive Director, Steve Reinecke with Joseph Fox, Chair of Indoor Air Quality Advisory Group.
Our Executive Director, Steve Reinecke with John Tcherkezian, Occupational Health & Safety Manager and Lloyd DelRosario, Executive Director of Yee Hong.
Our Executive Director, Steve Reinecke with Dr. Titus Wong, Infection Prevention and Control Physician from the BC Centre for Disease Control.
If you know someone passionate about engineered infection prevention technologies and who has made a difference, please contact us, as we are now accepting nominations for the 2023 awards.
We are thrilled to announce the CHAIR 2022 Leadership Awards winners in the Healthcare category.
The winners of the Healthcare Awards, John Tcherkezian and Dr. Titus Wong, demonstrate leadership and passion in their work towards infection prevention and control.
Read the full press release here to learn more about their inspiring achievements.
CHAIR recognizes the importance of embracing new ideas and engineering solutions to create safe spaces free from pathogens. We believe in advocating for innovative approaches and inspiring research-based solutions in infection prevention. These exceptional award winners exemplify our vision and mission, and we are proud to honor them.
We are delighted to announce and celebrate the extraordinary individuals who have been honored with the CHAIR 2022 Leadership Awards in the Community category. These outstanding individuals have demonstrated exceptional dedication and innovative approaches in reducing acquired infections
Joseph Fox, Chair of the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Advisory Group, and the Department of Materials Engineering at the University of British Columbia, Dr. Edouard Asselin, Professor, and Dr. Amanda Clifford, Assistant Professor have been recognized for their outstanding contributions in reducing acquired infections.
To learn more about the inspiring work of Joseph Fox, Dr. Edouard Asselin, Dr. Amanda Clifford, and the CHAIR 2022 Leadership Award Winners in the Community category, we invite you to read the full press release here.