Exposed Toothbrushes Risk Contamination from Flushed Toilets

You may have heard before that unsanitary airborne particles from a flushed toilet can make their way onto your toothbrush. In recent years, thanks largely to a segment on the popular "Mythbusters" T.V. show, the idea of water droplets traveling from the toilet to our toothbrushes has been cast as a sort of urban myth.

However, what the Mythbusters crew actually found did not disprove the idea of particles traveling from a flushed toilet to a toothbrush nor did it provide any rationale for leaving your toothbrushes exposed.

Anyone who has ever flushed a toilet while sitting on it has likely felt droplets of water splash upwards. The spread of toilet water is not limited to just those particles large enough to be felt. Thanks to "the aerosol effect", a veritable cloud of tiny droplets travels far outside the toilet when it is flushed.

Charles Gerba, an environmental microbiologist from the University of Arizona, first brought the aerosol effect to light in 1975 by when he published a scientific article describing the disturbing results of his tests on bacterial and viral aerosols due to toilet flushing. He conducted tests by placing pieces of gauze in different locations around the bathroom and measuring the bacterial and viral levels on them after a toilet flush. His results were more than a little disturbing: he found that the aerosols traveled as far as six to eight feet away from the toilet.

"Droplets are going all over the place – it’s like the Fourth of July," Gerba said. "One way to see this is to put a dye in the toilet, flush it, and then hold a piece of paper over it"

In the Mythbusters segment, which has been cited to disprove the idea of particles traveling outside the toilet, what the team actually found was that fecal coliform bacteria can be found everywhere – including on a pair of "control" toothbrushes they put away in a medicine cabinet in another room.

Such a finding is hardly reassuring, nor is it in any way proof that particles do not travel from the toilet to exposed toothbrushes. Plus, the Mythbusters team only tested for bacteria and not actual particles nor viruses.

It is true that many do not consider fecal coliform bacteria to be a health risk since they are found naturally in the human body – primarily in the lower digestive tract where the body processes and eliminates waste. However, that does not mean that it’s a good idea to introduce the bacteria into our mouths.

Fecal coliform grows in an environment similar to other waterborne bacteria, and thus their presence outside of the body means that other bacteria like hepatitis A or dysentery could also be present. Notably, municipal water districts test for the presence of fecal coliform bacteria to determine whether waste treatment is being conducted properly.

Obviously, it is not healthy to leave toothbrushes exposed in the bathroom. They should be covered and protected and toilet lids should be closed before flushing.

Since bacteria can accumulate on toothbrushes wherever they are located, it would be a good idea to regularly clean them with a UV device made for that purpose and/or spritz some colloidal silver on them prior to use. In addition using toothpaste that contains a natural antiseptic like tea tree oil is a good idea.

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Tony Isaacs

Tony Isaacs, is a natural health author, advocate and researcher who hosts The Best Years in Life website for those who wish to avoid prescription drugs and mainstream managed illness and live longer, healthier and happier lives naturally. Mr. Isaacs is the author of books and articles about natural health, longevity and beating cancer including "Cancer's Natural Enemy" and is working on a major book project due to be published later this year. He is also a contributing author for the worldwide advocacy group S.A N.E.Vax. Inc which endeavors to uncover the truth about HPV vaccine dangers.

Mr. Isaacs is currently residing in scenic East Texas and frequently commutes to the even more scenic Texas hill country near Austin and San Antonio to give lectures and health seminars. He also hosts the CureZone Ask Tony Isaacs - featuring Luella May forum as well as the Yahoo Health Group Oleander Soup and he serves as a consultant to the Utopia Silver Supplement Company.

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  1. Helen says

    I use a travel brush container I have had it for years whin I finish brushing I spray my brush with proxide and put it away
    Also put the cover don on the pot is a good idea

  2. Marten says

    Igot a better one, just soak your brush in a solution of hydrogen peroxide for 5 minutes…..that’s it

  3. says

    How do you figure that, Mercedes? Mythbusters merely proved that fecal matter can be found everywhere, the same as a recent study found that the large majority of grocery shopping carts had fecal matter on them.

    The microbiologist listed in the article actually measured fecal matter amount and distance from the toilet.

    Who ya gonna believe, the two nut jobs at Mythbusters or a microbiologist who tested it?

  4. Boomer12k says

    Actually, at the end of the Mythbusters episode it was discussed that we as humans have become immune to the types of bacteria spread in this manner, so it does not matter.
    Go watch the episode again.

  5. Anonymous says

    As a Mom of four boys, I always taught them to sit whenever using the toilet. Never was I more impressed with my own wisdom then when my four-year-old waited until the ultimate last minute to pee one afternoon. Rushing up to the potty, with no time to “sit,” he slammed open the lid and “let’er rip” from a standing position. Out toilet is positioned under a west window. With the sun streaming through the window, I was horrified to see my son standing in the midst of a “pee mist.” This mist rose to the ceiling and dissipated (I’m assuming) all over walls, shower curtains, toothbrushes, soap, towels, fixtures, etc., etc. Can anyone imagine the “misting power” when the stream of a grown man hits that pool of water? In any media warnings about sanitary health habits, I’ve never heard a “peep” about this. Is this too much of a male social taboo? What good is hand washing to prevent disease, when everything you touch (including the door knob), is misted with the urine of every male that’s gone before? What does closing the potty lid when flushing do about this?

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