|Should We Bring Back the Toilet Lid|
|By Robert Kravitz, President AlturaSolutions|
Every cell in a correctional facility has a toilet. However, in some correctional locations, inmates are housed in dorm settings.
In this case, there may be a row of toilets and urinals along different walls, just as in a commercial office or school setting. Sometimes, barriers and partitions are separating the different toilets, and some may even have doors for additional privacy. However, very often, there are no barriers or separations between the toilets whatsoever.
As to how they are manufactured, the trend today is to use stainless steel. However, in older correctional facilities, we often find that most restroom fixtures are made of porcelain. The switch to stainless steel is primarily because it is harder to vandalize these restroom fixtures.
However, no matter what kind is installed and in what setting – cells or dorms – one thing we find is that there are no lids. This is true in commercial facilities as well. Lids were removed years ago to help reduce costs and make the toilet easier to clean. However, with COVID-19, we may need to reconsider this trend.
Before we explain the problem, let us do a quick review of how COVID is spread. The most common forms of transmission that we know today are the following:
Here is what is going on. Every time the toilet is flushed, a phenomenon called “toilet plume” is created.
These are particulates from the feces that become airborne. We’ve known about this for decades. But, what many of us are just now learning is that scientists have found traces of COVID germs in feces.
These germs then land on a variety of surfaces surrounding the toilet. This would include other fixtures, walls, doors, and floors. Further, because they are now airborne, they can be inhaled by other inmates and staff, again potentially spreading the disease.
This can be far more serious than we realize. A study released by a Hong Kong university and published in February 2020, found that as many as 80,000 polluted droplets [are released from toilets] as they are flushed, reaching as much as three feet into the air and lasting for hours if the lid is left up. *
While installing lids will not prevent all these droplets from being released, it could prevent the majority of these droplets from finding their way onto surrounding surfaces.
However, if your toilets do not have lids and there is no expectation that lids will be installed anytime soon, what can correctional facility administrators do about this situation? It all comes down to cleaning, says Terry Schawe, technical director for Kaivac, manufacturers of cleaning systems designed to stop the spread of infection.
“We can no longer just clean toilets or urinals and consider the job done. With droplets reaching as much as three feet and lasting for hours, the entire area around toilets and urinals must be cleaned.”
In dorm settings, there are different ways to accomplish this:
Robert Kravitz is a frequent writer for the corrections industry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Coronavirus: pathogens linger in toilets for hours if you flush without closing lid – and some may still sneak through even if it is down,” Hong Kong study finds,” by Brian Wong, South China Morning News, February 13, 2020
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