When waterless urinals were first becoming popular in the United States about five years ago, many users and facility managers were concerned the units were unsanitary. Some scientists, health officials, and facility administrators initially believed that the water that rinses the sides of the urinal bowl with each flush also flushes away harmful bacteria, germs, and contaminants.
This belief was often perpetuated by organizations that were initially opposed to waterless urinal systems, either for political or unfounded environmental reasons. However, tests and studies conducted more recently indicate that these concerns are not valid. In fact, waterless urinal systems may actually be more sanitary for the user and the manufacturing facility in which they are installed than may have been originally realized.
For the most part, the urine of a healthy person is sanitary. However, over time, it is the moist atmosphere of a conventional flush urinal that can foster the growth of germs and bacteria in the urine. But because waterless urinals remain dry, they are hostile environments to bacteria and viruses. In other words, without the moisture, germs and bacteria cannot survive.
Another factor regards the handle found on many flush urinals. Unless a sensory system has been installed, which is not as common in a manufacturing facility as it is in a hotel or shopping center for instance, the handles must be touched by all users in order to flush the urinal. This has the potential of spreading germs and cross contamination.
However, since waterless systems are “touch free” this is no longer an issue and there is no way for cross contamination to occur as a result of the urinal. This was one of several conclusions reached on the sanitary aspects of waterless urinal systems by Dr. Charles Gerba, a respected professor of Environmental Microbiology at the University of Arizona.
In fact, in his study which was published in August 2003, Dr. Gerba states, “waterless urinals would result in a significant improvement in public restroom hygiene.”
Among his reasoning for this statement include the fact that when a conventional urinal is flushed, microbes which can carry germs and bacteria, can become airborne. They can be inhaled, which can be potentially harmful. Also, they can spread throughout a restroom on to nearby surfaces where people can touch and come into contact with them. If this happens, it breeds cross contamination, which can be very serious in a busy manufacturing facility.
It appears that as more studies are released, waterless urinal systems are proving their value in hygiene as well as water conservation and helping to protect the health of the environment. They are considered environmentally friendly and many new Green buildings are installing waterless urinals, not only to protect the health of their occupants, but to protect the environment and for those facilities seeking LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), earn certification credits as well.