OU Professor Studies What Flies Out Of Toilets

Friday, November 4th 2011, 10:18 pm
By: Dana Hertneky

OKLAHOMA CITY -- We do it multiple times a day, and it's obvious what's going down. But we probably don't think about what's flying up.

But that's exactly what David Johnson, a professor at OU's College of Public Health is studying: the tiny droplets that fly out of the toilet and into the air.

"Some large droplets are big enough that they will fall back on the seat or the floors around," said Dr. Johnson.

"But others are small enough that they'll evaporate to the size that they don't ever settle out, they just float away in the air."

Dr. Johnson thinks those particles may have spread SARS, Nora virus, and maybe even H1N1.

So he is looking into which toilets produce the most droplets, what causes them. and how to minimize it.

He uses tiny florescent beads smaller then bacteria. He puts them in the toilet, seals up the room, then flushes.The air is then drawn out of the room.

"It passes through a filter and any airborne particles get trapped in the filter," said Johnson.

Dr. Johnson and his colleague Dr. Lynch then put that filter under a microscope with a black light, and have discovered dozens of florescent particles.

"The more energetic the flush, the more droplets get produced," he said.

And the worst offender's so far? The toilets you see in public most of the time. Which leads Dr. Johnson to this warning as we head into holiday shopping and flu season.

"Don't touch bathroom services, the toilet seat, the toilet lid if there is one, the stall walls, the door handles, the flush handles."

And of course wash your hands. Dr. Johnson says it will take a couple more months before his study is complete.