Blown up toilet
An exploding toilet may sound like the punchline to a joke, but they can cause serious injuries and even death. Image: Slipszenko/Flickr/CC BY

A woman was injured and sent to the hospital Monday when she sat on a toilet that exploded in Washington, D.C. On the other side of the world, an Australian airman, who suffered a similar accident eight weeks ago, died from his injuries.

Toilet explodes in federal building

A federal worker was sent to the hospital when dangerously high water pressure caused a toilet to explode in the General Services Administration building in Washington, D.C. The name of the woman, whose injuries were serious but not life-threatening, has not been released.

Employees warned to steer clear

A memo warning employees to avoid the facilities was issued following the incident.

“DO NOT flush toilets or use any domestic water. Due to a mechanical failure, there is high air pressure in the domestic water system that resulted in damage to toilets. The engineering staff is working to correct the issue. There has been damage to flushed toilets that has resulted in injuries. We will announce when the issue is resolved.”

A plumbing malfunction

Because of the large distances water has to travel in a city’s plumbing system, it is released from source pumps at very high pressure. That enormous pressure can be dangerous if it is not slowed down by special valves before it reaches its destination. A malfunction in those valves likely caused the accident.

Larry Rothman of Roto-Rooter explained to The Huffington Post that, “the closer you are to the source pump, the higher the pressure will be.”

Rothman also said that the term “explosion” is a little dramatic in this case. However, that is the only word for what happened in Australia eight weeks ago.

Portable toilet explodes

Michael Dunn, a 52-year-old Welsh-born airman in the Royal Australian Air Force, was on an exercise in Brisbane when the incident occurred. Dunn was using a portable toilet facility when it is believed a fuel tank leak was somehow ignited.

Airman dies from injuries

Dunn’s injuries included third degree burns to his chest, arm, face and head. He received many skin grafts over the intervening eight weeks, but it was not enough. Dunn died on Monday.

Dunn was a father of two and well-regarded by his colleagues, according to RAAF Air Marshal Geoff Brown.


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