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Public Bathrooms and airbourn pathogens  RSS feed

 
Hildegard Bogart
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I work in an office building where several folks like to take their morning dumparoos. I'm concerned about the thick , toxic air. Suggestions? (no, I can not quit my job or work in another area) (yes, I thought about purchasing a small white mask...but would this even work?) Thanks!
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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I don't know as I've ever heard of people getting sick from airborne pathogens from people pooping in western toilets. Now maybe if someone didn't wash their hands, and touched surfaces... But basically poop falls into water pretty quickly - not a lot of time for pathogens to escape.

What I'd be way more cautious of is Air Fresheners of all types. I know that I for one have had more than one adverse reaction to scented stuff. I'd rather smell poop than inhale VOCs and known carcinogens any day of the week!

From Wikipedia:

Many air fresheners employ carcinogens, volatile organic compounds and known toxins such as phthalate esters in their formulas. A Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) study of 13 common household air fresheners found that most of the surveyed products contain chemicals that can aggravate asthma and affect reproductive development. The NRDC called for more rigorous supervision of the manufacturers and their products, which are widely assumed to be safe:


The study assessed scented sprays, gels, and plug-in air fresheners. Independent lab testing confirmed the presence of phthalates, or hormone-disrupting chemicals that may pose a particular health risk to babies and young children, in 12 of the 14 products—including those marked 'all natural.' None of the products had these chemicals listed on their labels.[4]

On September 19, 2007, along with the Sierra Club, Alliance for Healthy Homes, and the National Center for Healthy Housing, the NRDC filed a petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission to report the findings.[5]

The University of Bristol's Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) found that exposure to volatile organic compounds through frequent use of air fresheners and other aerosols in the home was found to correlate with increased earaches and diarrhea in infants, and with increased depression and headaches in their mothers.[6][7]

In 2008, Anne Steinemann of the University of Washington published a study of top-selling air fresheners and laundry products.[8][9] She found that all products tested gave off chemicals regulated as toxic or hazardous under federal laws, including carcinogens with no safe exposure level, but none of these chemicals were listed on any of the product labels or Material Safety Data Sheets. Chemicals included acetone, the active ingredient in paint thinner and nail-polish remover; chloromethane, a neurotoxicant and respiratory toxicant; and acetaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, both carcinogens. A plug-in air freshener contained more than 20 different volatile organic compounds, with more than one-third classified as toxic or hazardous under federal laws. Even air fresheners called "organic," "green," or with "essential oils" emitted hazardous chemicals, including carcinogens.

In 2009, Stanley M. Caress of the University of West Georgia and Anne C. Steinemann of the University of Washington published results from two national epidemiological studies of health effects from exposure to air fresheners. They found that nearly 20 percent of the general population and 34 percent of asthmatics report headaches, breathing difficulties, or other health problems when exposed to air fresheners or deodorizers.[10]

Research at the University of Colorado at Boulder revealed a probable mechanism for the carcinogenic effects of mothballs and some types of air fresheners.[11][12]

 
Hildegard Bogart
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I was fortunate enough to see Paul's you tube vid from a conference in San Diego. In there, I understood him to say that if something smells bad, it probably is bad for you. That makes sense. He referenced "Uncle Ralph " fouling up the air in a bathroom. He said "pathogens in the air" , but he may have been joking or I may have misunderstood him. Thank you for your response.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Interesting. Although perhaps a bit subjective. For instance - I HATE HATE HATE the smell of beer - it literally makes me gag (unfortunately in grad school I had to go to Milwaukee once a week!) I know most people find the smell and taste of beer very pleasant. Kimchi smells bad, but it's yummy! A lot of medicinal herbs can either smell or taste bad to some/most people (I think chamomile smells like urine) and yet they are good for you... And then we're back to air fresheners....they smell good but are bad for you...

Perhaps Paul will weigh in here and clarify!
 
Julia Winter
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I feel obligated to "out" myself here:

I am an MD. OK, I'm a pediatrician, not an adult doctor, but I feel confident in offering this knowledge to you.

You can't catch anything from a bad smell.

I liked watching Paul's presentation, but when he said that I was about ready to tear my hair out! (and if you've ever met me, that would be a big deal!)

Bad smells do indeed mean that molecules, disgusting poopy molecules, have floated through the air and into your nose. However, these are not contagious in any way. They are much smaller than viruses and so much smaller than bacteria it's not even funny.

Jennifer, if I still had an apple to give out, I would--you are exactly right (in my somewhat educated opinion).
 
Matu Collins
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One trouble, as I understand it, with public bathrooms is that they often have no lids and when they are flushed some poop water is sprayed in the air, which then can be on surfaces in the bathroom. If the person has a virus it can be spread this way. I studied up on this stuff last winter when the terrible stomach virus was going around. They say you can be contagious for 5 or more days after symptoms are gone. So wash hands and don't touch anything.

I'm not afraid of poop stink but the stomach bug? <shudder>
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Matu - good point. I've seen some hyper-aggressive flushing toilets that cause spray.... (and also sound like they're going to suck you into the deepest pit of hell!)
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Julia - thanks for outing yourself and weighing in - you're definitely an expert in my book!

I actually became somewhat paranoid thinking of smells causing illness! I mean, I've had a lifetime of self-inflicted "close calls" (yes, lentils, I'm looking at you!!) LOL.

Ahhhh.....potty humor!
 
Julia Winter
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Matu is absolutely right. Some toilets practically sneeze, and just like a sneeze, that could spray water bits with virus inside far and wide. One of the important reasons to wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands!!

Did I mention--wash your hands??!!

Water droplets can carry infectious particles, primarily viruses. Smells, not so much. You can smell a yucky smell from far away and via indirect routes, with the wafting of teeny teeny tiny molecules in air currents. The water droplets tend to follow more direct routes. However, those viruses can move from place to place via . . . you guessed it. . . people's hands and other fomites.

So wash your hands.
 
amanda boyce
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Hi! Not so much for the public restroom discussion, I just wanted to say that anyone who has their (home) toothbrush/paste hanging on a holder or sitting on the counter is at risk for fecal contamination! Use your medicine cabinets people!
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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You know - this thread reminded me of a study they did here in AZ on laundry greywater being reused in the landscape.

When it was first proposed that laundry water could be recycled back into the landscape, people had concerns about the level of fecal matter that might be in that water - especially if you were using cloth diapers - and what, if any, health issues might arise from that.

I believe it was University of AZ who set up the study which included several different test case scenarios with different populations. The end result showed that fecal matter was minimal and not a threat. However the surprise came in which group had the most fecal matter in laundry water. You'd think it would be someone with an infant using cloth diapers or even perhaps elderly folks who may have accidents. NOPE. The greywater with the highest fecal content was....college guys! Yep. Guess they a) didn't have a lot of experience washing clothing, b) couldn't be bothered and just wore the same jeans day in and day out....
 
Julia Winter
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Ewwww!
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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I know! And here I used to look back on my college days fondly. Now, not so much!
 
Hildegard Bogart
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Haha! You Permies don't play! Wow! I love this site! Thank you ALL for your responses. Now I can cringe without fear.
 
Matu Collins
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http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131004105253.htm

Feces are gross and potentially dangerous. However! Like most things, everything is relative, or as we often say in permaculture, "it depends"

I've been following the research on fecal transplants for a while and results are darn near astonishing. Other people's poo may be good for you! Check out this recent article:

 
Hildegard Bogart
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Aromatherapy...lol. Matu , that article is fascinating . Thank you :+)
 
John Polk
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I just wanted to say that anyone who has their (home) toothbrush/paste hanging on a holder or sitting on the counter is at risk for fecal contamination!


And, never use it to scratch your itchy hemorrhoids.

 
Hildegard Bogart
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Good Lord, you did not just say that! Ha!
 
wayne stephen
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Normal feces is not pathogenic . Unless you have an intestinal disease such as e.coli or shigella , hepatitis or cholera , etc . then not to worry . It's just poop and we all have it . The least sanitary place in your home is your kitchen . Restaurants even more so . The sink drain and refrigerator vegie drawer are where the real culprits are . Listeria , salmonella . That's what will turn your nice clean intestinal tract into Mount Vesuvius .
 
Julia Winter
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Well, normal e.coli will cause a bladder infection in a healthy individual, so there's that.
 
wayne stephen
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Not all GI tracts have e coli . Not all e coli types are pathogenic . Some strains are considered healthy flora , some cause diarrhea , some bladder infections , and others even pneumonia . Check out the CDC website for " the final word " on e coli and other bugs :

http://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/general/#what

 
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