I'm sure we're all thankful for public toilets, but we'd probably rather not see or know what happens when you flush one.

We've always known that public restrooms were prime breeding grounds for bacteria, germs, and pathogens. But, guess what? When you gotta go, you gotta go - so you do what you have to do and try not to think about the filthy environment you are in.

Now, thanks to researchers at Colorado University Boulder, we can actually see what's happening in the air when we flush the toilet. I have to warn you, the results of the study are a bit disturbing. Maybe the good old days when we couldn't flush weren't really so bad.

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Bright Green Lasers Reveal the Path of Post-flush Airborn Particles

Engineers at CU conducted an experiment using bright green lasers and camera equipment to reveal a phenomenon that is invisible to the naked eye. The team was able to demonstrate how tiny water droplets are rapidly ejected into the air when a lid-less public restroom toilet is flushed. Previous studies had detected the presence of these airborne particles above flushed toilets as well as showing that larger particles can land on surrounding surfaces. But, now, we can actually visualize how particles are transported and what these plumes look like.

According to the study, airborne particles shoot out quickly from the flushed toilet at speeds of around 6.6 feet per second, reaching a height of nearly 5 feet within 8 seconds. Larger droplets are seen settling onto surfaces within seconds, and the smallest particles can be suspended in the air for minutes - or even longer.

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What's In Those Flying Bathroom Particles?

For over 60 years, researchers have known that when a toilet is flushed solids and liquids go down while invisible particles are released into the air. Particles can be made up of pathogens such as E. coli, C. difficile, noroviruses, and adenoviruses. These viruses can cause flu-like sickness, vomiting, and diarrhea.

The Problem With Public Toilets

One problem with public toilets is that generally there is no lid. Flushing a toilet with the lid down would at least confine airborne particles in the toilet. Then there's the idea that pathogens can remain in that nasty bowl for dozens of flushes - and you are in close contact. On top of that, you have bathroom surfaces that can be contaminated with unseen pathogens like the toilet seat, the handle, and even the door to the stall.

What Can You Do About It?

For many of us, using a public restroom in Colorado is a last resort. If you're like me, after watching this toilet video, it's going to become even more of a last resort. Unfortunately, especially when you're traveling down Interstate 70, you just don't have much of a choice. The best thing you can do is what we have been told for years and years. When you're finished, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water - because what you can't see can hurt you.

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