When guarding against illness, personal hygiene is the first step. It is for this reason that the bathrooms in USF’s College of Public Health and other buildings are equipped with toilet seat covers.
Yet, this courtesy does not extend to some of the busiest bathrooms on campus – including those in the Library, Cooper Hall and the Marshall Student Center – suggesting that the welfare of occupants in these buildings is less important.
Though contracting diseases from toilet seats is unlikely, using covers as a precaution must be an available option.
The only type of sexually transmitted infections (STI) that have a reasonable chance of being passed from person to person via toilet seats are passed through parasites like pubic lice, according to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
According to the National Women’s Health Information Center, pubic lice cannot be contracted from a toilet seat, but Trichomoniasis can be contracted from parasites if the genital area comes in contact with a damp or moist toilet seat.
Though toilet seats do not provide the ideal environment in which parasites can live or reproduce, a chance that an unsuspecting student may contract such a disease is still a possibility.
The dangers associated with toilets not only extend to dirty seats, but also clean ones. Recent cases of toilet seat dermatitis, which causes skin irritation around the buttocks and upper thighs, were observed in five children during a study by the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. The cause of two of the cases was discovered to be harsh toilet seat detergents. To prevent dermatitis, the researchers recommended the use of toilet seat covers.
People may argue that hovering over the toilet seat could be considered as an additional option, though it is not possible in all cases and can be tiresome after a long day. Some students at the University of San Francisco, the nation’s other USF, have also pushed for covers to be available in all bathrooms. However, they have largely been seen as a waste of resources, according to the Foghorn, the school’s student newspaper.
Though it’s not a guarantee that a disease will be contracted when skin comes in contact with a toilet seat, it doesn’t hurt to take a few hygienic precautions when using public restrooms.
Zahira Babwani is a senior majoring in biomedical sciences.