Stories tagged sanitation

Do you have one of those old, boring, regular toilets? Check out video here on the "intelligent toilets" in use in many public areas in Japan. It's actually scary what these toilets can learn about you while you're doing your daily business.


2.6 billion people lack adequate access to toilets

Searching for relief
Searching for reliefCourtesy Heidigoseek
To cut the number of people without access to a toilet in half by 2015 would cost $38 billion (that is less than 1% of annual world military spending). That investment, however, would yield $347 billion worth of benefits -- much of it related to higher productivity and improved health.

Experts estimate that $9 in productivity, health and other benefits are returned for every dollar invested installing toilets for people in countries that today are off-track in meeting the UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for sanitation.

What do you do when there are no bathrooms?

How much time do you think people without toilets spend each day looking for an appropriate place to relieve themselves. If we say 30 minutes each day that works out to 15 hours per month. That equals about two working days per month which could have been used for productive work.

Lack of toilets results in disease and missed work

The lack of toilets results in untreated human waste being dumped into the environment. Diarrhoeal disease kills 1.8 million people each year.

As a result, humans are regularly exposed to bacteria, viruses and parasites -- spread through direct or indirect contact with these watercourses. Such exposure is the leading cause for diarrhoeal disease (including dysentery and cholera), parasitic infections, worm infestations and trachoma.

Globally, $552 million in direct health treatment costs would be avoided by meeting the MDG sanitation target.

Areas with least access to toilets

  • West and Central Africa 36 %
  • South Asia 37 %
  • Eastern and Southern Africa 38 %
  • East Asia/Pacific region 51%

Between 1990 and 2004, an estimated 1.2 billion people gained access to improved sanitation, an increase of 10 percent. Cutting the number of people without access to a toilet in half by 2015 is the UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for sanitation.

National level support for universal sanitation needed

Investment into sanitation can lead to economic benefits for communities. According to UN experts, a single, country-wide sanitation plan is needed. Appealing to consumer preferences for convenience, comfort, safety, cleanliness and prestige has been more successful than health-oriented information campaigns.

Source: United Nations University via EurekaAlert.


Hookworms in the lining of the intestines: All together now: "ewwwwwwwwwwww."
Hookworms in the lining of the intestines: All together now: "ewwwwwwwwwwww."Courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Cleanliness is next to godliness, but is it possible to have too much of a good thing? For several decades, immunological diseases -- such as hay fever, asthma, diabetes and multiple sclerosis – have been increasing in developed countries, but are uncommon in many undeveloped regions. Medical researcher Joel Weinstock theorizes that modern life is too clean – by scrupulously avoiding dirt, bugs and germs, our immune systems don’t develop properly, leading to the diseases listed above. Weinstock goes so far as to speculate that exposure to hookworm, pinworm, and other intestinal parasites may have been the trigger necessary for developing a healthy immune system. As these parasites have been eradicated, immunological diseases have skyrocketed.

The theory is currently being tested in the lab. Weinstock doesn’t advocate the return of worm infestations. But he does think that getting your hands dirty once in a while can help keep your body in balance.