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Thinking in Print: Automatic toilets do more harm than good

The automatic flushing toilet was patented in 1988 as a way to eliminate the need to manually flush. Besides highlighting the laziness and lack of courtesy in a society unable to spare three extra seconds to pull a handle, automatic toilets traumatize children, hurt the environment and make life anything but easier. 

Automatic toilets are loud and often splash water everywhere. While this is merely annoying to adults, it can be traumatizing to children. Many parents have spoken up about their children being petrified of sitting on such loud machines that could go off beneath them at any moment. Children are too small for the sensors on many automatic toilets to read, making such incidents likely to occur if a parent does not think to cover the sensor. 

When I was a young girl visiting the zoo, I, too, found myself forced to use an automatic toilet. Being too small for the sensor to read, the toilet proceeded to flush continuously while I was still using the restroom and unable to flee. I sat helpless beneath that gushing stream of whirling water, thinking it would either suck me in or eat me. As an adult, I actively avoid using automatic toilets unless absolutely necessary to this day.

Terrifying innocent children just isn’t enough for automatic toilets. They are also bad for the environment. Picture all the times you’ve walked into a stall and the automatic toilet flushed before you’d even sat down. That’s wasted water. If a toilet’s sensors are not adjusted, poorly installed or poorly maintained, they run the risk of double flushing, triple flushing or worse. 

These extra flushes add up. On average, automatic toilets use 54% more water than manual toilets. If the Los Angeles and San Francisco international airports swapped automatic toilets for manual ones, a whopping 80 million gallons of water could be saved each year. For context, that is equal to the yearly water usage for 200,000 families of four.

Despite being made to improve life, automatic toilets can be a hassle when they malfunction and refuse to flush. Lime and calcium can build up on sensors if they are not cleaned properly, and batteries can die to thwart a flush. If you’re unlucky enough to discover your automatic toilet doesn't flush and there’s a crowd waiting outside your stall, it’s going to be awkward. 

We live in a society. A society should be able to come together in harmony and make a unanimous decision to flush when we have finished using the restroom. We do not need automatic toilets to do such a simple task for us, especially when it’s the environment and children who pay the price.

How much water and childhood innocence will automatic toilets flush away until we shut the lid on them once and for all? 

Charlene Pepiot is a senior studying English at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Charlene know by emailing her,

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