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Are portable potties safe during the pandemic?

By Nicole Hvidsten, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Health & Fitness

When you gotta go, you gotta go. Portable restrooms are nearby, but are they safe in the COVID era? We asked a sanitation expert.

Q. Has demand increased?

A. Demand for portable sanitation equipment has changed during the pandemic. With so many outdoor events canceled, fewer restrooms are needed for things like fairs, concerts and weddings. Demand has gone up considerably on job sites, where existing OSHA laws and new guidance for the pandemic have required more restrooms, hand-wash facilities and more frequent cleaning. We have also seen a surge in requests for equipment in places where indoor restrooms might be closed.

Q. Do you recommend users take any extra precautions during the COVID era?

A. For decades the CDC has said, "Hand washing is a do-it-yourself vaccine." We strongly recommend that people wash their hands frequently, and especially after using the restroom.

Q. Since they don't flush, are they safe?

 

A. Actually, one could argue that portable restrooms are safer because they don't flush. There is a good deal of research that shows flushing creates an aerosol that spreads the contents of a toilet into the air in a room. Many public toilets do not have lids, so you can't close the lid to avoid that. The waste in a portable toilet is safe as long as it is below the blue water in the tank. That blue water contains chemicals that kill bacteria and viruses, and without a flush it isn't getting into the air in the unit.

Q. Is it difficult to ventilate portable potties?

A. Each portable restroom has a ventilation pipe and screens around the top of the unit to assist with air flow. Under normal conditions ventilation is not a problem. Like any small, non-air-conditioned space, it will be harder to keep conditions pleasant in extreme heat when there is no breeze.

Q. Lid open or closed?

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