The image below is for a real patent issued by the United States Patent Office in 1982. The device is a tube that you insert into the waste drain of a toilet to access “clean” air in the waste water piping of your building.
This seems like a bad idea at first, and even after thinking about it for a bit, but it would work. It works because of the way that water drains are designed. Here are the components of plumbing in the US that make this work as a survival breathing device should you get trapped in a smoke filled bathroom.
The P-Trap is a section of the waste pipe that traps a small amount of water in the pipe after a flush. This acts as a seal against the air in the waste pipe behind the wall. Since this pipe is connected directly to the municipal sewer, it smells bad. The water seal in the P-Trap keeps that smell out of your house.
Waste Pipe Vent
All waste water pipes in homes and buildings in the US are required to be vented through the roof. This is because as pipes fill with water and that water rushes down the pipe and into the sewer is creates a siphon that sucks air and water from all the pipe above. The vents through the roof prevent that siphon suction from pulling the water out of all the P-Traps and allowing stinky sewer air from getting into the house.
Here’s a video explaining more about the vent pipe:
Why a Faucet Snorkel Wouldn’t Work
In the post on TotallyAbsurd.com where i saw this, they question, ” Here’s our question… couldn’t he have, just as easily, invented the Faucet Snorkel instead?” He could not have invented a faucet snorkel because the water supply lines have no direct connection to a fresh air supply. In fact, if you tried to breach through a faucet, your lungs would fill with water since the water supply lines are under about 10 pounds per square inch of pressure. You’d be better off taking your chances with the smoke.
Han Solo Knew
That just cause something is stinky and unpleasant, doesn’t mean dying is better. Smoke inhalation is the leading cause of death in fires, particularly in large multi-story buildings, not heat or actually being burned. So if you find yourself in a situation where you have to do something gross, nasty or stinky, just do it so you can be around to gross your friends out about it later.