The Toilet Snorkel: This Real Invention Patented in 1982 Could Save Your Life!

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Imagine you’re staying in an upper floor of a high-rise hotel and a fire breaks out. Unfortunately, you are trapped in your room because of smoke and fire outside, and as in most hotels, the windows do not open. Smoke begins to fill the room, and you are quickly running out of air to breath. What do you do?

In 1981, inventor William O. Holmes came up with the idea after rash of fires in high-rise hotels. Holmes’ tube-shaped device plunges into a toilet bowl, past the water trap and into the air on the other side, which blows in from the sewage stack pipe. The idea isn’t utterly ridiculous, the gist being that trapped users can suck stinky but non-toxic air from the toilet until the fire fighters arrive. Just remember to take a break from pulling air through a toilet long enough to scream for help.

Illustration of a person utilizing the fresh-air breathing device of this invention for breathing fresh air through the water trap of a toilet, and a modified breathing means for the air breathing device.

His 1982 patent for a “Fresh-air breathing device and method,” most however will describe his invention as what it really is: the toilet snorkel.

This invention provides an economical device and method for ensuring a life-saving supply of fresh air to a person entrapped in a burning hotel room or the like, when the person is subjected to toxic smoke inhalation.

The fresh-air breathing device comprises breathing means for being held in communication with a respiratory intake passage (mouth and/or nose) of the user and conduit means for communicating fresh air to such respiratory intake, including a first end connected to the breathing means and an open second end having sufficient flexibility and length for insertion through a water trap of a toilet. Carrying forth the method of this invention, such insertion of the conduit means or breathing tube through the water trap will expose the open end thereof to fresh air from a vent pipe connected to a sewer line of the toilet. The user may then proceed to breathe fresh air for life-saving purposes, until rescued.

Illustration of fresh-air breathing devices.

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