Urinals may spread coronavirus, study finds

Flushing urinals can release clouds of virus-containing aerosols that you can potentially inhale, the researchers found

Public urinals may expose you to coronavirus, according to a study.

Researchers from Yangzhou University in China found that flushing urinals can release clouds of virus-containing aerosols that you can potentially inhale, a significant concern during this COVID-19 pandemic. The group recently reported similar findings with flushing public toilets and decided to examine urinals.

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“More than 57 percent of the particles have traveled away from the urinal," the researchers stated in the study published in Physics of Fluids.

The particles also traveled at an alarming rate.

The particle can reach 0.84 meters, which is about the height of a man’s thigh, in 5 1/2 seconds when compared with the diffusion performance of the toilet-induced spray that reaches around 0.93 meters in 35 seconds, according to the study.

Public urinals may expose you to coronavirus, according to a study. (iStock)

Public urinals may expose you to coronavirus, according to a study. (iStock)

The team of researchers tracked the movement of virus-containing particles when urinals are flushed through computer simulations.

"To do this, we used a method of computational fluid dynamics to model the particle movement that occurs with the act of flushing," Xiangdong Liu, one of the researchers in the study, said. “Similar to the flushing of the toilet, the flushing process of the urinal involves significant interactions between the gas and liquid interfaces.”

The researchers stated their findings raise concerns over public restrooms.

Recently, the researchers found a virus particle of "SARS-CoV-2," the formal name for the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, from urine of someone with a confirmed case of the disease, which means urine-based transmission could be a previously ignored transmission route, the researchers stated.

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“It means that besides the toilet, the male-oriented urinal, which is a common facility in the male public restroom, could become another dangerous item," they concluded.

The study authors noted urinals are typically used within crowded venues, and since the particles can travel faster and farther in a urinal, it poses a serious public health challenge.

The research team suggested making masks mandatory in public restrooms, adding the implementation of anti-diffusion improvements of public restroom facilities is “urgently needed," especially during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.