Patent: Breath of Fresh Air? Not!

patent for getting fresh air from a toiletU.S. Patent No. 4,320,756 appears to be a useful and quite ingenius invention that could prevent deaths from smoke inhalation in the event of fire by allowing trapped occupants in proximity to a toilet an alternative source of air.

The illustration shows a man with a tube in his mouth. The tube runs into a toilet and back into the toilet sewage pipe, where breathable air apparently exists. But the inventor oversells the invention a bit by naming it the “Fresh-Air Breathing Device and Method,” and repeatedly extolling the “fresh air” one can access while waiting for help from firefighters.

Fresh air? Not too sure about that. The breathing tube connects to “a sewer line or soil pipe for draining waste materials and water upon flushing of the toilet.” It does contain a filter to help deal with the “residual sewer gases.” I guess that would help.

By the way, an excellent part of the invention claimed is “the step of flushing said toilet” prior to inserting the breathing tube. Leave it to those inventors. They think of everything.

U.S. Patent No. 4,320,756, Mar. 23, 1982. Thanks to David Barman.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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