Does Flushing the Toilet Pose a Health Threat?


People may not think about it much but every time they flush the toilet they may be compromising their health in microscopic but potentially dangerous ways. When a toilet is flushed, millions of bacteria-laden liquid particles (in the form of an ever-expanding mist) are exploded into the air, many of them landing on things nearby.


The personal care items (soap, combs, hairbrushes, hand mirrors, washcloths, makeup, dental floss, toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc.) you usually keep around the sink then become landing sites for these airborne tiny-cesspool “particles.” Multiply the millions of bacteria that may land on each of these items every day by the number of times the toilet is flushed in your bathroom.


Part of the problem is that the mist in question is, for the most part, unseen. Add to this the fact that toothbrushes in most households are generally too bacteria-laden to begin with. Why? As a general rule, toothbrushes are supposed to be replaced on a regular basis. If deciding to hang to them (maybe because you develop emotional attachments to them?) beyond the recommended period, you need to wash them thoroughly after each use, keep them in clean containers, and make sure that they are not shared by other people.


How many people, however, stick to these common-sense, basic hygiene rules? When bacteria lands on your toothbrush from toilet water mist, it unnecessarily threatens your health, even if you are one of the few people who keeps his/her toothbrush fresh (by replacing it often) and clean (by rinsing it after every use).


What kind of bacteria can you find in toilet water mist? One of the most dangerous bacteria no one should want to introduce into his/her mouth (or eyes, nose, cuts, etc.) is E-coli bacteria; it can be found in great numbers in toilet water. A very useful microorganism within the intestinal tract (helping to break down the foods people eat), E-coli can wreak havoc if it gets into other parts of the body, especially the esophagus and windpipe.


Naturally, there are other types of bacteria (as well as other dangerous pathogens) in toilet water but the presence of E-coli is reason enough to beware of toilet water mist.


What can you do about this problem? Instruct all the members of your household to assiduously put down the toilet bowl cover before flushing the toilet. This will not completely keep the mist that is created from traveling out of the bowl but it will greatly decrease the amount of harmful effluent released unto delicate areas, such as toothbrush handles/bristles and other personal care items.


While no one can say that millions of people are dying because of “toilet bowl mist poisoning,” it should be enough to stress that this is a potential problem that can be easily controlled. As a general rule, be careful as to what you put in your mouth and keep those things meant to go in your mouth (toothbrushes, tooth picks, dental floss, dentures, etc.) in clean, closed containers.


Furthermore, as an additional precaution, put down the toilet bowl cover every time you flush. Protecting your health is worth this small inconvenience.


Copyright, 2014. Fred Fletcher. All rights reserved.



  1. “The Ugly Truth about Your Toothbrush”
  2. “Exposed Toothbrushes Risk Unhealthy Bacterial and Viral Contamination”
Fred Fletcher
Fred is a consumer advocacy Health Reporter; with 15+ years of experience and about as many (x1000) published manuscripts, he is amply qualified (also possessing an MS/PhD in public health) to write about health/medical issues and trends. When not writing, Fred gardens, invents board games, digs for artifacts, and helps nonprofits.