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Should Men Sit Down to Pee?

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When Viggo Hansen, a county counselor from the Left Party in Sormland, Sweden, tried passing a law that required that men sit down to pee when using the public bathrooms, his motion caused a flood of reactions. Hansen argued when men sit down to pee it is better for public health because it reduces the splatter around the toilets and stops the spread of disease. Hansen is one of many—including the head of the environmental protection agency in Taiwan, Stephen Shen, who also tried mandating such an order—that believe errant urine is bad for public health. They argue that droplets of urine spread disease. But just how scientifically sound are these arguments? Is it actually better for men to sit down and pee?

“Urine is actually sterile,” says Benjamin Davies, an associate professor of urology at the University of Pittsburgh. “There is no bacteria in it. You can drink urine.” (Though he's not advocating that anyone does take a swig of urine.) 

So puddles of urine might smell bad and look gross, but they won’t cause disease. But Hansen has another argument: Hansen claims that men who pee while sitting will fully empty their bladders, which is better for their prostates—and means they'll experience a longer, healthier sex life.

But again, Hansen's claims are totally off the mark. "This is total bullsh**," Davies says. "There is no relationship between voiding and sex life. I haven’t the slightest idea why it would improve your prostate. If you are a normal male your prostate muscles relax while you urinate.”

Bottom line: Completely healthy men experience no benefit by sitting to urinate instead of standing. Some conditions might mean it is easier for a man to fully empty his bladder if he sits down, but for the vast majority there is no difference between sitting and standing. However, some cultures prefer to sit rather than stand—almost half of all Japanese men sit to urinate. 

Davies believes that sitting is a cultural or psychological preference, not a health issue. “If you are tired," he says, "go ahead and sit.”   

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What’s the Difference Between Prison and Jail?
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Many people use the terms jail and prison interchangeably, and while both terms refer to areas where people are held, there's a substantial difference between the two methods of incarceration. Where a person who is accused of a crime is held, and for how long, is a factor in determining the difference between the two—and whether a person is held in a jail or a prison is largely determined by the severity of the crime they have committed.

A jail (or, for our British friends, a gaol) refers to a small, temporary holding facility—run by local governments and supervised by county sheriff departments—that is designed to detain recently arrested people who have committed a minor offense or misdemeanor. A person can also be held in jail for an extended period of time if the sentence for their offense is less than a year. There are currently 3163 local jail facilities in the United States.

A jail is different from the similarly temporary “lockup”—sort of like “pre-jail”—which is located in local police departments and holds offenders unable to post bail, people arrested for public drunkenness who are kept until they are sober, or, most importantly, offenders waiting to be processed into the jail system.

A prison, on the other hand, is usually a large state- or federal-run facility meant to house people convicted of a serious crime or felony, and whose sentences for those crimes surpass 365 days. A prison could also be called a “penitentiary,” among other names.

To be put in a state prison, a person must be convicted of breaking a state law. To be put in a federal prison, a person must be convicted of breaking federal law. Basic amenities in a prison are more extensive than in a jail because, obviously, an inmate is likely to spend more than a year of his or her life confined inside a prison. As of 2012, there were 4575 operating prisons in the U.S.—the most in the world. The country with the second highest number of operating prisons is Russia, which has just 1029 facilities.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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What Do Morticians Do With the Blood They Take Out of Dead Bodies?
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Zoe-Anne Barcellos:

The blood goes down the sink drain, into the sewer system.

I am not a mortician, but I work for a medical examiner/coroner. During an autopsy, most blood is drained from the decedent. This is not on purpose, but a result of gravity. Later a mortician may or may not embalm, depending on the wishes of the family.

Autopsies are done on a table that has a drain at one end; this drain is placed over a sink—a regular sink, with a garbage disposal in it. The blood and bodily fluids just drain down the table, into the sink, and down the drain. This goes into the sewer, like every other sink and toilet, and (usually) goes to a water treatment plant.

You may be thinking that this is biohazardous waste and needs to be treated differently. [If] we can’t put oil, or chemicals (like formalin) down the drains due to regulations, why is blood not treated similarly? I would assume because it is effectively handled by the water treatment plants. If it wasn’t, I am sure the regulations would be changed.

Now any items that are soiled with blood—those cannot be thrown away in the regular trash. Most clothing worn by the decedent is either retained for evidence or released with the decedent to the funeral home—even if they were bloody.

But any gauze, medical tubing, papers, etc. that have blood or bodily fluids on them must be thrown away into a biohazardous trash. These are lined with bright red trash liners, and these are placed in a specially marked box and taped closed. These boxes are stacked up in the garage until they are picked up by a specialty garbage company. I am not sure, but I am pretty sure they are incinerated.

Additionally anything sharp or pointy—like needles, scalpels, etc.—must go into a rigid “sharps” container. When they are 2/3 full we just toss these into one of the biotrash containers.

The biotrash is treated differently, as, if it went to a landfill, then the blood (and therefore the bloodborne pathogens like Hepatitis and HIV) could be exposed to people or animals. Rain could wash it into untreated water systems.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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