- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2003

NEW YORK (Agence France-Presse) — Flushing may go down the drain, at least in the men’s room.

A U.S. company has created a waterless urinal, which it says conserves water, reduces odor and prevents the spread of bacteria.

It looks like a normal urinal — white enamel mounted on the wall. But it doesn’t have a handle to flush, freeing germ-conscious men from having to wiggle an elbow or bit of sleeve to keep their hands clean as they push the lever.

That’s because this urinal has a cartridge lodged inside the drain, filled with a biodegradable sealant that traps odors and reduces the spread of germs as the urine passes through.

A typical urinal uses 39,000 gallons of water in a year, according to Falcon Waterfree Technologies, which along with the U.S. firm Waterless and Germany’s Duravit is one of the leaders in the market.

The water saved in one year by six of the new urinals would be enough to fill an Olympic-sized pool.

The filter cartridge lasts for 1,000 to 7,000 uses, depending on the model. Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles found in a study that the new method leaves fewer bacteria than the traditional flushing types.

“It’s the best invention since the flush toilets were invented,” microbiologist Charles Gerba said.

Water, rather than urine, is what spreads most bacteria, he said. Flushing actually sends bacteria flying through the air like an aerosol, and the flushing handle is a prime breeding ground for germs, the University of Arizona scientist said.

“If you have a drier surface, you have fewer bacteria,” he said.

The idea first developed after World War II in Germany, where tight finances and heavy rebuilding demands forced researchers to look for ways to conserve resources.

Two Germans invented the filter cartridge in the 1980s.

The device has already made its way into some of the world’s finest urinals, including those at the Taj Mahal in India.

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