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$23.4 million Space Toilet

Going to the toilet is easy down here on Earth, because gravity pulls your solid and liquid wastes down, away from you. But in the micro-gravity in space, bodily wastes tend to just float around. That's why NASA spent US $23.4 million in designing and building the toilet for the Space Shuttle. It deals with what they delicately call "digestive elimination". For more on toilets in space check out Great Moments in Science.

Toilet Nirvana

By : James Brooke for The New York Times Toilet Research in Japan

NARA, Japan - Japan's toilet wars started in February 2002, when Matsushita engineers here unveiled a toilet seat equipped with electrodes that send a mild electric charge through the user's buttocks, yielding a digital measurement of body-fat ratio. Unimpressed, engineers from a rival company, Inax, counterattacked in April with a toilet that glows in the dark and whirs up its lid after an infrared sensor detects a human being. When in use, the toilet plays any of six soundtracks, including chirping birds, rushing water, tinkling wind chimes, or the strumming of a traditional Japanese harp. In a Japanese house, "the only place you can be alone and sit quietly is likely to be the toilet," said Masahiro Iguchi, marketing chief for Inax. This may be one explanation for the ferocious toilet research going on in Japan. Continued ...

A Million Dollars Worth of Research

Charles P. Gerba Professor of Environmental Microbiology, Departments of Microbiology and Immunology and Soil, Water and Environmental Science, University of Arizona

Exerpt from Dr. Gerba's bio: "I later did a postdoctoral where the field of environmental virology was evolving and looking at viruses in the environment. I had a rather entrepreneurial advisor, and one day he actually leaned back and felt the droplets when he flushed the toilet he was sitting on. He got the idea that maybe viruses spread in developed countries by toilet bowl flushing. He ran down and grabbed me, had me sit on the toilet, and flushed it a few times. I thought it was an initiation, but it ended up being the beginning of about a million dollars worth of research for Procter & Gamble! That got me interested in consumer products. Now I'm developing new products, evaluating their environmental safety, and working with biotechnology companies." (For the rest of Dr. Gerba's bio ...)

From "Great Moments in Science"

Flushing Out The Truth by Karl S. Kruszelnicki

Sometimes, if things are a bit rushed at work, we might grab a quick sandwich at our office desk. But you'd never be in such a hurry, as to even dream of eating off the toilet seat, because we all "know" that toilets are really "dirty", and loaded with germs. But on average, per square centimetre, your desk has 50 times more bacteria than your toilet seat!

This was discovered by Dr. Charles Gerba. He's Dr. Germs, who solved the problems that the National Science Foundation was having with the waste-water treatment system in the Antarctic at McMurdo Station. He helped out with advice on water-recycling systems for both NASA and the Russian MIR Space Station.

Dr. Gerba has also studied germ counts in the house, and by doing so, discovered the right way to flush the toilet. You should flush with the lid down.

If you flush with the lid up, a polluted plume of bacteria and water vapour erupts out of the flushing toilet bowl. The polluted water particles float for a few hours around your bathroom before they all land. Some of them will land on your tooth brush. (For the rest of this story...)

Dual-flush Toilet Testing

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada funded research to assess the performance and user acceptance of dual-flush toilets. The project had three objectives:
1. to determine public perception, acceptance and satisfaction with dual-flush toilets
2. to field-test the performance of dual-flush toilets compared to 6-litre and 13-litre toilets in terms of consumption rates and equipment performance
3. to determine the cost-effectiveness of dual-flush toilets compared to 6-litre and 13-litre toilets.

From Research Highlights, Technical series 02-124. For the details of this research ...

Frivolous Flushers

According to research conducted by American Standard, the world’s largest manufacturer of kitchen and bath products, approximately one in three people experience regular problems with their toilets, while one in ten claim that their toilet’s flapper and chain needs to be tinkered with frequently in order to work properly. And ever since 1.6 gallons per flush became law, nearly one in ten people say they often have to flush more than once to do the job.2

Through its effort to get to the bottom of America’s frustration with toilets, American Standard gained revealing insights into what goes on behind the bathroom door. In the end, so to speak, after examining everything from the flushing of weird objects to the potty preferences of Hollywood stars, the findings further demonstrated the need for American Standard to completely redesign flushing technology. For more on this research see "The Truth About Toilets, Research Reveals What Really Goes On Behind the Bathroom Door."

"Toilets Designed for Small People"

From "Aging and Technology Research" at the University of Buffalo: " One cannot discuss problems within the bathroom without acknowledging potential problems getting to and using the toilet. The height of the toilet seat can be problematic for those with transfer difficulties. The height of a standard toilet is about 14 inches. This height is preferred by people of small stature since it is easier for them to use. But an elevated toilet seat that is at least 18 inches tall makes transfers easier for the average height adult. It will help eliminate or lessen the stress on the knees when sitting or standing. Transferring onto and off an elongated toilet seat is much easier than transferring onto and off a standard toilet seat." To read the rest of this Study Module

Toilets for the Not so Small People

All over the world, the average weight of people has increased dramatically and the percentage of obese persons has increased in some countries up to 40% of the population. An obese person is one who weighs over twice as much as his or her maximum recommended body weight. Such persons often weigh hundreds of pounds and existing toilets are typically not sufficiently sturdy to support such bulk. In spite of the large numbers of obese persons, the standard size of toilets has not changed to accommodate the increase in weight of the population. In most cases, domestic, commercial, and institutional facilities utilize toilets that are designed particularly for use by normal-sized adults and do not take into consideration problems encountered by obese persons in their use of standard-sized toilets. What is being done ...

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