QUESTION: I recently read that a “toilet plume” could carry COVID-19 viral particles into the air, and that public restrooms are especially risky because the toilets have no lids.
I have been concerned about this possibility for years. So even at home, I cover the toilet with newspaper, close the lid and then flush the toilet. I throw the newspaper in the garbage before I wash my hands thoroughly. You will be surprised how damp the newspaper gets from just one flush.
ANSWER: Physicists recently modeled the behavior of fluids when a toilet is flushed and warned about the toilet plume (Physics of Fluids, June 16, 2020).
They found that a fine mist could rise up to a yard above the toilet and recommend closing the lid before flushing. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that this is unnecessary, however, as they have no confirmed reports of anyone catching COVID-19 from a flushing toilet.
QUESTION: My knowledge of the current safety of prescription medication in the United States started when I read the book “Bottle of Lies.” After reading it, I sent two of my metformin tablets to be analyzed. The analysis revealed that my daily metformin medication provided over 30 times the maximum safe level of the carcinogen NDMA.
I wrote to the president of my mail-order pharmacy and received a reply that it only provides medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Earlier this month, the medication provider (located in India) “voluntarily” recalled my specific metformin “out of an abundance of caution.” That was after the FDA finally issued a recall of many lots of metformin from several manufacturers. How can I have any confidence in the medicine I take?
ANSWER: Until recently, pharmacies did not have to worry about drug quality. As long as the FDA approved a generic drug, pharmacy buyers assumed that they could purchase the lowest cost medicines.
In “Bottle of Lies,” Katherine Eban investigated generic drug manufacturing overseas and uncovered a number of serious problems. More recently, research revealed that a number of common prescription drugs contained probable carcinogens, such as NDMA. Quality control, storage and shipping conditions have contributed to these impurities.
Authorized generic drugs might be one option. These are made to the same specifications as the brand-name products. Sometimes, they are even made on the same manufacturing line.
QUESTION: I was hospitalized last year with a serious asthma attack. At that point, my blood pressure was high, but I monitor it at home. It is normally 120 over 76.
A couple of doctors got angry at me because I would not agree to take blood pressure medicine upon discharge. One doctor even said, “I don’t care WHAT your blood pressure is normally.” Shouldn’t they pay more attention to such information?
ANSWER: Hospitals can be scary places, especially when you are having trouble breathing. We’re not surprised that your blood pressure might have been elevated.
Home blood pressure measurement can be an accurate reflection of hypertension (Journal of the American Heart Association, Oct. 16, 2018). Ideally, you would measure your BP twice in the morning and twice in the evening for several days to get an average you can show your primary care physician. She will be better able to determine if you need medication.