Lid shut on toilet bacteria testing

by Mallory Higgins

The Simpsonian was planning to test random bathrooms around campus for bacteria as a follow-up to March 10’s “The good, the bad and the ugly.” However, Amy Doling, assistant professor of biology, said the testing of bathrooms would not provide accurate results on how clean or dirty the bathrooms on campus were.

“Simpson as a college doesn’t have the capabilities to test for bacteria that would cause an illness,” Doling said. “If samples are tested in a public health lab, then you can test for harmful bacteria. Just swiping a toilet seat to see if bacteria is there wouldn’t tell us anything. There’s bacteria everywhere.”

Doling said if testing is performed, one must have a specific they are looking for.

“Specific testing is good, like when swimming pools are tested for bacteria such as fecal coliform, which is related to E. coli,” Doling said. “Testing just to see if it’s there is not informative.”

Doling did have some suggestions for people when they see a dirty bathroom.

“If a bathroom looks dirty, it doesn’t mean that the bacteria level is higher than other places,” Doling said. “Yet no matter how clean or dirty a bathroom is, washing hands is the best way to protect yourself. Also, people should just have common courtesy to clean up any mess they make in a bathroom.”