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Valuing the Not-so-Humble Toilet

How much do you value toilets? Like freely flowing clean drinking water, most people in the developed world enjoy ready access to the convenience and safety of reliable household toilets. But an estimated 3.6 billion people — nearly half the world’s population — are not so fortunate. This World Toilet Day 2021 (19 November), the United Nations is raising awareness of the value of the toilet. Toilets are essential to achieving U.N. Sustainable Development Goal #6, which includes extending safely managed sanitation services worldwide by 2030. And good sanitation services include the use of good chemistry.

A reliable toilet may be (i) one that is connected through a series of pipes to a treatment facility, (ii) one that is on a “septic system” in which waste is stored on site to be periodically emptied and treated elsewhere, or (iii) one that either treats or disposes of wastes onsite. Anything less can be a threat to human and environmental health. Open defecation, practiced by almost half a billion people around the world, is a particular health and safety risk, especially for girls and women.

Chlorine chemistry helps provide dependable sanitation services throughout the world in two important ways. Chlorine-based disinfectants are used to destroy disease-causing microorganisms in human waste. This disinfection technology is “scalable” and can be used to treat waste where it is generated or more centrally at wastewater facilities. Additionally, chlorine chemistry is used to manufacture lightweight, durable PVC piping for sanitation infrastructure. These pipes safely convey contaminated wastes away from communities, helping to ensure public and environmental health.

How much do you value toilets? The not-so-humble toilet contributes to public health, safety and human dignity—no small contribution to the world community.

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