World Toilet Day 2019

World Toilet Day 2019

The UN World Toilet Day is a timely reminder that while we take for granted having a flushing loo, more than four billion people worldwide don't have safe, decent sanitation

By Noah Dugall

The UN holds World Toilet Day each year because it wants us to recognise how vital loos are in maintaining healthy homes and public health. The flushing toilet is one of the greatest inventions (they date back around 4,000 years) because it rid us of infectious diseases such as cholera and dysentery. But still billions of people don't have use of one and NGOs and charities such as Water Aid are asking for donations to help them introduce toilets in poor and remote parts of the world. Pictured above: children at a junior school in the Democratic Republic of Congo are delighted to have flushing loos

Toilets may be a rich source of humour, but life without one is no laughing matter. 

UN World Toilet Day on 19 November aims to focus attention on the many millions of people in poor countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America who have no access to a flushing lavatory, and the impact that has on public health. Which in a nutshell means more sickness and disease and lower GDP.

You may already donate to charities that work in infrastructure, but if not, NGOs such as Water Aid want you to know that finding ways to install flushing loos in the poorest parts of the world is a crucial part of their work.

Toilets have made a huge impact on pupil attendance at schools in remote parts of India. Picture courtesy of WaterAid
Busted Flush! by Geoffrey Pidgeon

Do your bit and get a water-saving loo

Toilets have traditionally needed large volumes of water (around 12 litres per flush), but manufacturers have made huge progress over recent years in reducing the amount needed per flush. And given that water is a precious resource, we're all being urged to switch if possible to toilets with water-saving dual-flushes. Villeroy + Boch has loos that use 3/4.5L, while the ES4 loo available at the Green Building Store has a short flush of just 2.6L

Britain has a dearth of public loos

Britain doesn't, fortunately, have open sewers and Britons don't die from dysentery caused by human waste in our water supplies. However, there is a dearth of public toilets here and many people find it a cause of anxiety when deciding to out and about or not.
The Great British Public Toilet Map, the UK's largest database of publicly accessible toilets, reveals that public toilet provision in certain parts of the country is severely lacking, with six councils having only four public toilets each and some areas with only one public toilet per 70,000 residents, drastically over the average of one toilet per 17,354 residents. 
The data analysis, supported by the Open Data Institute, draws on data collected by crowdsourcing, open data and FOI requests. The project, launched in 2014 by the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art, allows the public to find toilets when away from home.
With the NHS stating that between 3-6 million Britons experience at best a degree of urinary incontinence, the aim of the The Great British Public Toilet Map is to build a national open database of public toilet locations across the UK. 
How many toilets do we have?
We have 10,738 publicly accessible toilets of which 8,955 (80 per cent) are council-run public toilets (and note councils are not legally obliged to provide public loos) and 1,783 are other publicly accessible toilets (17 per cent).
Of these 17 per cent:
42 per cent are in train stations
16 per cent are in supermarkets - with Tesco listed most frequently, with loos in 161 stores. 
Areas with most publicly accessible toilets (by council boundary)
Cornwall  - 203 toilets
Highlands - 191 toilets
City of London - 108 toilets.
Public loos: millions of UK rail travellers are delighted our major railway stations have dropped the 30p a wee charge they had introduced a few years ago.... surely we can expect to be able to go to the loo without paying for the privilege. However, a particular bugbear of the deco team is that the London parks, notably Regent's Park, still has barriers and charges 30 pence to use the loos in its parks. This is simply outrageous (and ridiculous as we're being forced into a cashless economy) and it's incredibly cruel to homeless people who struggle to find places to go to the loo. 
The history of the loo - book by Geoffrey Pidgeon

On a lighter note, if you want to know more about the history of the loo - one of our greatest inventions - read bathrooms expert Geoffrey Pidgeon's book, Busted Flush! The Thomas Crapper Myth.

Pidgeon, now in his 90s, was the fourth generation of his family to run its bathroom business, and he went on to found Original Bathrooms - from which he retired in 2006. The beautifully illustrated book takes you through his family's more than century- long involvement in plumbing, sanitation and bathroom design, as well as the recounting the history of the flushing loo.

Which wasn't, of course, invented by Victorian Thomas Crapper; rather the idea for a toilet dates back to the 16th century and the first patent for one was granted to Alexander Cummings in 1775.

Geoffrey Pidgeon's book is published by Arundel Books at £14.99.