Antoinette Nascimento, AE3 Partners Architect, recently presented at the American Public Health Association (APHA) 2021 Annual Meeting & Expo. Antoinette has over 25 years of experience in the architecture field providing design, engineering, and construction management services to underserved clients in the community. Her APHA session titled “How Do Women Move through Space: Safety and Security Concerns for Women and Girls in the Workplace, Community and on Travel” covered important topics such as public restroom design to prevent spread of infectious disease and legislation that protects children against violence.
The spread of COVID-19 has highlighted the health risks associated with public restrooms. Antoinette discusses the spread of pathogens associated with commercial gravity toilets which release bioaerosols also known as a “toilet plume.” Toilet plumes can rise 3 to 5 feet and linger in the air as an aerosol for up to 30 minutes after flushing. The exposure risks to women are higher because women spend an average of 90 seconds in public restrooms when men only spend less than 60 seconds. In healthcare where the immunocompromised are at higher risk, architects eliminate the spread of bioaerosols by installing vacuum plumbing which produces no “toilet plume.” Vacuum plumbing is also common in aviation and the marine industry. Vacuum plumbing toilets require significantly less water per flush and piping is easier to install when remodeling historic structures.
The USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council) already rewards LEED credits for the installation of low water usage toilets and pre-pandemic planning. The building and plumbing codes can adopt similar pre-pandemic prevention measures in public facilities where large numbers of people gather: airports, shopping centers, stadiums, fast-food restaurants, etc. The International Code Council (ICC) publishes the building codes triennially. ICC members have an opportunity to present improvements that can positively impact safety standards affecting nearly two billion people.
Antoinette is a founding board member of the Legislative Drafting Institute for Child Protection (LDICP) at Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, LA. The LDICP studies child protection statutes in each state, surveys the actual implementation of the law and then drafts model legislation for state legislatures to enact into law. Their current legal research project advocates for all children in court cases to be appointed a lawyer and not a volunteer. Antoinette shares, “performative kindness by lesser trained volunteers such as a Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), fails traumatized children who need lifesaving legal help. Our goal is to close the 1974 Federal Child Abuse Prevention & Treatment Act (CAPTA) loop hole and end the childhood trauma to violence pipeline.”
CAPTA already receives significant federal funding. LDICP’s goal is to disrupt the pandemic of violence against children and women by replacing two words codified in CAPTA which specifies a “guardian ad litem” volunteer to “an attorney” for every abused / neglected child’s judicial proceeding.
“An adult would never hire a trained volunteer as a dentist, let alone a dental Hygienist!”
Some of the feedback Antoinette received regarding her presentation included, “The presentation underlines why we as public health professionals have to work with those in other fields, having multidisciplinary collaborations to address public health problems.” Antoinette’s experience allows her to advocate in multiple ways for the health and safety of others due to her skillful background in a wide variety of settings. Antoinette encourages others to get involved and take action to make widespread changes that will positively impact our most vulnerable; women and children.