11.18.2008

An Ode to Going

November 19th is World Toilet Day. Founded by one Jack Sim, creator of the World Toilet Organization, the national, or I should say, world wide day of advocacy, is to call attention to the fact that billions of people don’t have access to toilets.

In fact, an estimated 2.6 billion people defecate in public. They don’t even have a bucket to use, let alone a heated public or private water closet, something that we, here in America, consider one of our god given rights. But apparently going in private, or sitting on the throne, as some of us call it, with our favorite reading material is a privilege that fully half the world does not have.

Environmental advocates tell us that public defecation contaminates food and drinking water causing a major health hazard. Diarrhea, which is for us an uncomfortable but usually minor inconvenience, kills between 2 and 3 million people per year. That’s more than AIDS, TB or malaria.

For want of a toilet, our health system is compromised.

Clean drinking water is on everyone’s radar, but nobody thinks about the need for improving sanitation, or the correlations between the two.

Jack Sim terms the lack of discussion about sanitation “the quiet embarrassment.” He likens it to the silence that initially surrounded the AIDS epidemic. We just don’t talk about the need for public toilets or improved sanitation. But innovations in the toilet industry are happening.

In Japan, toilet maker TOTO markets a toilet that does everything including checking blood pressure. The World Toilet Summit and Expo will showcase an 'uber-toilet,' featuring an in-seat warmer/cooler, male and female water jets, an in-bowl light and a USB port so you can connect your mp3 player for your soothing tune of choice ($1,200).

You read more about the WTO and World Toilet Day in this week’s TIME Magazine.
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