This is a revisit to an article that I wrote over a year ago with some updates. With all the mystery sicknesses these days, I believe it needs to be re-digested. (pun intended) So this is a little bit of a departure from my regular nutrition blog. If this kind of topic makes you squirm, or you think you have it covered, or you just like sailing down the river D-Nile, we'll see you on Friday with a new topic. For those of us who can handle the topic no matter how unpleasant, here we go. The event seems to have been first brought to our attention by University of Arizona environmental microbiologist Charles Gerba when he published a article in 1975, describing bacterial and viral aerosols due to toilet flushing. Over the last three decades, he's written over 400 papers in peer-reviewed journals on infection and disinfection. He has 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, and his results are more than just a little disturbing.
Gerba's studies proved that the water droplets, in an invisible cloud travel six to eight feet out and up, so the areas of the bathroom not directly adjacent the toilet are still contaminated. Bacteria will cling to ceilings and thrive in the humid environment in your bathroom. Most times the situation is left untreated for months or years. I mean who cleans their bathroom ceiling, right? That's why some odors remain in your restroom after it's been to be otherwise thoroughly cleaned. The bacterial mist has also been shown to stay in the air for at least two hours after each flush, thus maximizing its chance to float around and spread. "The greatest aerosol dispersal occurs not during the initial moments of the flush, but rather once most of the water has already left the bowl," according to Philip Tierno, MD, director of clinical microbiology and diagnostic immunology at New York University Medical Center and Mt. Sinai Medical Center. "To limit the scope of the aerosol effect, the simplest method is to close the lid on the toilet every time before flushing." Notice he said limit and not eliminate. What happens when you close the lid is that the cloud squirts out from the sides with force, it doesn't end up on the ceiling, but you get the picture. Closing the seat reduces that bacteria by about 80% though, which is a considerable difference. If you have trouble remembering to close the lid, maybe you should purchase an auto closing lid, they are beginning to become more common these days. They work just like those laser operated hand dryers in public restrooms.
The top of toilet seats have actually been determined to be the least infected place in the bathroom because the environment is too dry to support a large bacterial population. The underside of the seat however has a higher than average microbial population. The place in a restroom with the highest concentration of microbial colonies in restrooms is, surprisingly, the sink, and toothbrushes, due to accumulations of water. This is where these organisms breed freely after landing from their aerial journey. In spite of all the evidence, some people try and fool themselves into thinking that these things aren't true or that they don't apply to their toothbrushes. Make no mistake though your toothbrush is like a toilet brush, a bacterial hot-zone filled with all kinds of disgusting germs. You can be sure that allowing these germs to enter your mouth and bloodstream each day is harmful to your long-term health.
One Professor of Risk Analysis from Harvard University School of Public Health had this to say, "It may surprise you, or sicken you to know that if your toothbrush is stored near the toilet, the chances are great that it is covered with E.coli bacteria." Scientists at the University of Buffalo believe that the chemicals produced by the immune system's reaction to periodontal disease, "the inflammatory response," spill over into the bloodstream through cuts in the gums. Then the chemicals make their way to the liver to produce proteins that inflame the arterial walls and clot the blood, where Atherosclerosis and, ultimately, heart attack may result.
Ok so what do we do. The American Dental Association ADA, states that keeping your toothbrush in a cabinet or using a toothbrush cover actually increases bacteria and therefore should never be done if at all possible. Do not keep lots of brushes in one cup. They will rub together and spread germs, to everyone in the house. Ever wonder why when one person in your family gets sick the rest of the family soon follows? Wash your hands before handling your toothbrush. It seems rather obvious, but all too often people reach straight for the toothpaste tube before washing their hands. If you still think washing your hands is putting some soap on your palms and quickly rubbing them together and rinsing, like when you were 6 years old, then you deserve to get sick. Clean between your fingers that's where the sneakiest germs hide. Wash your toothbrush before and after every use. This constitutes holding it under running water and rubbing your thumb over it with force. Do this for five to ten seconds. I store mine bristles submerged in a small glass with an alcohol based mouthwash like Listerine, in the medicine cabinet, and change the mouthwash daily. ADA says get a new brush every 3 months, I say 1 month because they are so cheep these days. Also you can consider spending about $20.00 on a UV toothbrush cleaner.
efficient. Now this year what I would like to add to this article is a little reminder about your cell phone. I can hear you all groaning now. A recent study found that over 16% of the phones in the study were contaminated with E coli. Nobody ever cleans or disinfects their phone, so the germs and bacteria just keep building up. What types of germs? E. coli, as well as influenza and MRSA, a germ that causes rashes and skin infections. Frequently used cell phones are warm, which makes them a great breeding ground for bacteria, and with touch-screen phones, the same part of the phone you touch with your fingertips is pressed right up against your face and mouth, upping your chances of infection. Disinfect your phone at least once a week, more during cold and flu season. Use disinfectant wipes, but spraying some type of anti-microbial solution on a paper towel and wiping down your phone works just as well.
So there you have it the down and dirty on what we've been putting in and on our mouths. Cheer up though. Now that we know the score we can make some changes, and see if our dental and overall health improves. For those that took a pass on this article because it was too gross, Good Luck...
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