Most people have a phobia about the germs on a public toilet, but many modern studies show that other commonly used items have many more germs. A recent article in the Daily Mail found that many places are much dirtier. These places include outdoor grills (which are hardly ever cleaned), bin lids, computer keyboards, kitchen sinks and sponges, carpets, refrigerators, reusable shopping bags, banknotes, and mobile phones! While all of these are horrifying, that is no reason to ignore the germs on the loo seat.
When using a public washroom, keep in mind that germs and bacteria cause the odour often found there.
The reason that toilet seats are cleaner than expected is that they are cleaned more thoroughly both at home and in public washrooms than many of these other surfaces. In public washrooms, highly effective cleaning solutions and a deep cleaning service can wipe out germs that are a problem in domestic situations. (And of course in public washrooms that are not so well cleaned!)
S.F.Bloomfield and J. Barker (Department of Pharmaceutical and Biological Sciences, School of Life and Health Sciences, Aston University, Birmingham) wrote a paper about the survival of Salmonella in bathrooms and toilets in domestic homes. Salmonella is so hard to kill that you almost have to hope that no one has used the facilities carrying the disease. Commonly used domestic cleaners just do not kill it, but those used in public washrooms do much better. The main thing to remember is that you MUST wash your hands thoroughly whether you are at home or in a shared facility. And don’t touch anything in a washroom after your hands are clean.
Rotaviruses can cause fever, diarrhea, and vomiting. They are contacted by touching hard work surfaces like hand dryers in a washroom and can be transferred from hand to hand.
Unclean washrooms provide place for coliforms—bacteria— to grow. They are transferred from unclean hands to every surface touched. Alarmingly simply flushing the toilet sprays an aerosol into the air to contaminate all neighboring surfaces—handles, floor, walls—up to six square metres. Coliforms, which are found in faeces, can be very dangerous. The three most common are:
E. Coli–causes food poisoning and sometimes even death
Pseudamonis—creates skin infections
Streptococcus –often results in sore throats and sometimes blood poisoning
Parasites are the one thing that causes nightmares—we have all seen public television shows with graphic illustrations of these. They include protozoa and parasitic worms which can be transmitted from one person to another in the washroom by hand contact. Worms such as these grow in the intestinal tract and often cause serious damage. Some unfortunately common parasites include these:
Vaginal Lice is a parasite; it is an approximately 2-mm-long gray insect. It attaches to hair and feeds on human blood. Slow moving, then can breed fast, and usually live several weeks. Though usually transmitted by mostly by sexual contact, they can also transfer through physical contact, and through the use of toilets, as well as contaminated towels and clothes.
Scabies, a skin infection caused by a tiny mite that burrows under the skin, is usually spread by skin contact. It is water-borne, however, and can also be picked up on wet surfaces in a washroom.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are not just to object of schoolboy jokes; some can be picked up in a public washroom, just as your friends always warned you, but it is rare. You should be aware of these two:
Gonorrhea, caused bybacteria gonococcus, is a well-known venereal disease. Like the lice, it is usually transmitted by sexual contact, but can be picked up from contact in lavatories and from wet towels.
SARS, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, virus, is believed by some Hong Kong researchers to be spread not by air on in water, but from touching a toilet seat.
Condiloms, or Genital Warts, caused by the human Papiloma virus, are caused by sexual contact with a carrier and rarely by contact with contaminated surfaces.
Chloe is a writer who works for PHS Washrooms, a company which offer washroom supplies. She currently resides in Cardiff in the UK.