SCIENTISTS at airports have started collecting and analysing the tanks from plane toilets.
Some people incorrectly believe the myth that toilet waste is dropped out of the plane mid-flight, but it turns out it's actually being saved and analysed.
It turns out your mid-air deposits could be useful in both tracking and combatting the spread of diseases like Covid-19.
Scientists believe that plane wastewater will enable them to discover which new variants are entering their countries, and from where.
It means that, theoretically, they can be aware of any potentially threatening mutations before they create problems.
The idea had been suggested a while ago in America, but concerns about new variants coming from China after their zero-Covid policy change brought the scheme forward.
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Instead of finding the idea strange, airports are actually excited about getting involved with the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Laura Bronner, from Ginkgo Bioworks, told the Atlantic: “There have been a couple of airports who have actually reached out to the CDC to ask to be part of the programme."
Scientists say that they like this kind of surveillance not only because the results can remain completely anonymous but passengers also don't have to opt-in.
That's not the same with PCR testing, where people are required to voluntarily take part in any analysis.
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It is also much cheaper and less invasive than with PCR testing, making it preferable for this type of research.
However, unlike individual testing, the scientists will not inform people on the plane whether or not Covid was found, nor will they use it for the purposes of contact tracing.
Instead, it will simply be used to identify new variants and work out how dangerous they could be.
Airports are seen as the perfect places to do this because of how many people from all over the world pass through each day.
Rob Knight, a medical engineering professor at UC San Diego said: “You’re going to capture people who are traveling from other parts of the world where they might be bringing new variants."
The scientists have run into some small issues with their testing, with choosing the right planes to analyse one of the biggest problems.
They need to make sure that the flights they choose have a high level of toilet use to make it worth their while analysing the water tanks.
Casandra Philipson, who leads the Concentric bioinformatics programme, told the Atlantic: “The number of conversations we’ve had about how to inconspicuously know how many people on a flight have gone into a lavatory is hysterical."
Although they have no plans to actually monitor passengers' toilet use, it is something they have to consider when planning which flights should be included in their data.
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Meanwhile, a flight attendant revealed that passengers always make a common mistake when going to the plane toilets.
And this Hollywood star revealed a clever trick that they use when they're in a plane toilet.
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