What in the World is World Toilet Day?

November 19 is celebrated in more than 19 countries across the globe as World Toilet Day, and it’s not just a thing promoted by plumbers to get you to get your toilets maintained. Actually, World Toilet Day is a time when people everywhere focus on taking action to help everyone on our planet have access to a safe toilet – and it’s a serious concern.

The sad truth is that over 4.5 billion people don’t have access to a safe toilet, and almost 900 million of them actively use nature as their bathroom every day. This is an unsanitary statistic that adds up astronomically and has the potential to affect every one of us.

So of course plumbers rejoiced when the comprehensive understanding of lack of toilets and the resulting disastrous affect was finally understood by governments everywhere. In 2013, the United Nations declared November 19th as World Toilet Day, and the designation has resulted in the gradual increase in sanitation efforts everywhere.

Why are the unsanitary actions of those across the globe so important to everyone else? Poor sanitation and poor health go hand-in-hand, and places without access to proper sanitation, including toilets, have higher rates of disease and death. And those diseases can be spread, especially as technology helps us to become even more interconnected.

Lack of plumbing affects everyone’s health and plumbers around the world celebrate World Toilet Day as an opportunity to spread awareness of the global epidemic that is lack of sanitation.

A Little Bit of Interesting Plumbing History

In Long Beach, CA, modern plumbing is easily accessible to almost everyone, but it wasn’t always that way. Here is a little timeline of ancient history as outdoor plumbing slowly transitioned into the modern conveniences that we all take for granted every time we flush and walk away.

  • The actual inventors of the first toilets were the Scots and the Greeks in 3,000 BCE. Stone huts had drains that were used as ways to eliminate urine and excrement from the home.
  • Crete had the first discovered latrine, found in the Palace of Knossos, which was established near 1,700 BCE.
  • In the 12 to 1400s, Medieval England had a system that utilized garderobes. In this system, a room stuck out from the castle itself and had a small opening to be used as the toilet, usually placed over the moat to catch any mess.
  • Credit for the first modern flushable toilet goes to a man named Sir John Harington in 1596. He created a 2-foot deep oval bowl that was waterproof and fed by water from an upstairs source.
  • In the late 1700s, Alexander Cummings invented an S-shaped pipe that could be placed under a water closet to keep the toxic odors from escaping.
  • The 1800s brought the irony of a London plumber named Thomas Crapper. Crapper was hired to build bathrooms in multiple royal palaces by Prince Edward. His inventions helped us get closer to the current system of toilets (but he was not, as is commonly thought, the reason for the ironic use of his name as a term for excrement).
  • The 20th century brought us such modern conveniences as flush valves, over the toilet water tanks, and toilet paper rolls.

Current Plumbing Facts – Why is World Toilet Day So Important?

As people with empathy and compassion, of course we want those less fortunate to have access to sanitation so they can live a better quality of life. But even beyond that, that unhygienic lifestyle migrates into the environment and spreads out to us in ways we can’t see, which is why the United Nations stepped in when the consequences were finally thoroughly understood.

The truth is, massive amounts of human excrement are not being captured or treated. All of this untreated waste is contaminating the water and the soil surrounding it and the contamination eventually makes it way into our sources of food and water.

In short, our environment is becoming an open sewer, and our food and water is contaminated by the waste.

Here are the facts:

  • Almost half of the world – 40%, over 2.4 billion people – do not have access to methods of improved sanitation. In fact, more people throughout the world have access to cell phones than to a toilet. Think about that.
  • Lack of hygiene through sanitation increases the threat of disease, malnutrition, and death. This threat is especially high for women and children.
  • The second leading cause of death in the world of children under five years old is diarrheal disease. Proper sanitation and clean water could prevent all of these future deaths.
  • Since the invention of modern toilets, an average of 20 years has been added to the average human lifespan.

What you take for granted every time you use the bathroom is a severe need for almost half of the world. The World Toilet Organization’s mission is “Improving sanitation conditions for people globally through powerful advocacy, inventive technology, education and building marketplace opportunities locally.”

The United Nations has created Sustainable Development Goals, and part of those goals is that by 2030 there is availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for everyone, no matter where they live.

The investment is paid back, too. For every dollar that is used to create a clean, sanitary source of water and irrigation, there is four times as much of a return in reduced health care costs from disease and malnutrition. It is definitely one of those win/win situations.

Celebrate World Toilet Day

Toilets are nowhere near perfect and today’s focus is on increasing efficiency. In 1994, a law was passed by Congress to make all common flush toilets use 1.6 gallons of water per flush, which was less than half of what was previously used. This helped save on water, but was less efficient, didn’t remove as much waste as before, and increased clogs.

But instead of giving up and going back to the system that was diminishing our water supply at a massive rate, current companies are working privately and with the federal government to develop better systems to make our modern toilets more efficient, longer-lasting, and quiet.

So how can you help, too? There are many ways that you can make a difference on World Toilet Day and every day.

When you are searching for your new plumbing fixtures, look for the WaterSense label on your product. These labels can be found on everything from your showerheads to your toilets, and the designation shows that the product was tested, measured, and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

These products not only save water, but they can save you money, too.  A toilet with a WaterSense label saves an average of 4,000 gallons of water each year. Multiply that times however many people are in your family and how much a gallon of water costs on your water bill, and you have a pretty decent savings in your pocket.

Watch for leaks in your plumbing fixtures. They may be in your sink faucet, around your shower, or even around your hot water heater. These leaks may be the sign of a serious problem, but at the least, they are wasting water.

As far as helping raise awareness of the problem, you can share information about World Toilet Day on social media. There is a global movement towards getting those billions of people access to sanitation, and when you post on your social media platform about it you are helping to make others aware of the problem. You never know who you are going to reach that may spark another movement, donate to the cause, or even join the thousands who are working to build systems of sanitation around the world.

There are many events that take place to bring awareness to the problem, too. The “Urgent Run” is a marathon intended to bring attention to the crisis. There are videos on the World Toilet Day playlist that you can share with others to help them understand the importance of sanitation and why World Toilet Day started in the first place. And of course, you can always donate to the cause if you feel compelled to do so.

Is Your Plumbing “World Toilet Day” Approved?

Annual plumbing maintenance is important to keep your pipes in order and catch little problems before they become big issues. Problems in the water or sewer line are usually silent at first, and then they become noisy, expensive issues.

Regular maintenance can catch problems in your property and your plumbing fixtures early. Be sure that your fixtures are World Toilet Day approved and are not leaking water, causing contamination in the ground around your pipes and septic, and are EPA-approved.

When you are ready to have your plumbing checked and maintained or for all of your plumbing needs, call GM Plumbing Corporation. Our experts are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and ready to help you with any plumbing job, no matter how big or small.