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How Toilets Can Save the World

How Toilets Can Save the World

While scientists may regard penicillin or vaccinations as the greatest medical breakthroughs of all, Jack Sim claims toilets have done more for our health.

Do we really have the toilet to thank for being healthy?

“In the West, the toilet brought an end to epidemics. Toilets and hygiene have been shown to be the best preventive medicine. But London’s Great Plague of 1665 showed that the treatment of excreta is equally important. Today, hundreds of millions of people in rural areas and slums around the world still flush sewage directly into rivers.”

So health and development organizations must be jumping on the issue to solve this problem?

“Not really. When discussing solving poverty and diseases, experts don’t talk about sanitation, because they want to look elegant. After all, diarrhea is not a glamorous disease, so there’s no movie star helping people who die because of it. Meanwhile, it kills millions of people every year, including survivors of a famine or natural disaster when there’s poor sanitation in the refugee camps. We must understand that going to the toilet is just part of life a very important part of life that cannot be underestimated.”

But are poor people asking for toilets, or for food, water and shelter?

“Of course they don’t ask for toilets! That would be embarrassing. Besides, many generations have defecated openly and their neighbors do it too, so nobody dares to raise the issue. That’s why we need to break the taboo. Once people start talking about it, you create demand, so businesses can step in to design, produce and distribute toilets. We could build an entire new economy based on toilets. This way, change can happen very quickly.”

What will change?

“Toilets will improve hygiene, and then we can fight common diseases much more easily. If you don’t have sanitation, diseases will keep coming back. Really, toilets can save our lives.

Read more: Do Good, Health, News & Issues, ,

By Marco Visscher, Ode

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Megan, selected from The Intelligent Optimist

Ode, the magazine for Intelligent Optimists, is an international independent journal that publishes positive news, about the people and ideas that are changing our world for the better.


+ add your own
8:28AM PDT on Jun 21, 2012

Good point

2:03AM PDT on Jun 21, 2012

This is of vital importance. Thanks for raising the issue.

10:29PM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

Thanks for the spread of awareness.

In many developing nations, a family has multiple mobile connections but no toilet. Open space is used creating a risk for themselves, others and environment.

People need to put their priorities right.

8:45AM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

thank you

6:17AM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

Thank you

1:19AM PDT on Jun 29, 2011


5:01AM PDT on Jun 20, 2011

Thanks for the article.

3:37PM PST on Nov 20, 2010

Toilets, whether asked for or not must be made available to poverty stricken countries. Of course they would not be as we think of them...but it can be done and with sewage problems solved also. The other article of the art toilets was interesting...but really... put the money to an appropriate cause!

7:16PM PST on Nov 19, 2010

Well they can't just ask for a toilet they would have to have the whole sewage system for the toilet thing to work..

7:00PM PST on Nov 19, 2010

So is there a toilet fund we can donate to?

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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