Nearly 20% of the world’s population still defecates in the open, and action to improve hygiene, sanitation and water supply could prevent more than 2 million child deaths a year, health experts say. Here are some fascinating facts about one of our most unmissable modern conveniences.
- An average person visits the toilet 2500 times a year. About 6-8 times a day. We spend about 3 years of our lives in the toilet.
- Suppression of urination due to dirty toilets can lead to kidney and bladder diseases. In order to avoid visiting public toilets, some people refrain from drinking liquids and suffer from dehydration.
- 2.6 billion people do not have access to even a basic toilet.
- Only 7% of Afghanistan homes have flush toilets. Nineteen percent, however, have TVs.
- The average life expectancy of a toilet is 50 years.
- Pomegranates with studs of clovers were used as the first toilet air-fresheners.
- In the Middle Ages, moss and leaves were used for toilet paper.
- Most homes in the Middle Ages had no toilets - there was a midden, or dung heap in the yard, and people just added to it when necessary. The prettily named Maiden Lane, of which there are many in the UK, is a reference not to a young girl, but to a place where there was a dung heap. These lanes should actually have been called 'Midden Lane'.
- Bad public sanitation increases the risk of diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid, trachoma and parasitic worms.
- The toilet is the home appliance that uses up the most amount of water, using up to 26 litres per flush.
- The average person uses about 57 sheets of toilet paper every day.
- Unsafe sanitation and drinking water, as well as poor hygiene, account for at least 7% of the total global disease burden, and nearly 20% of all child deaths in the world.
- The first toilet cubicle in a row is the least occupied and therefore the cleanest as well.
- 1.8 million people die from faecally-transmitted diseases every year. Most deaths are among children, whose small bodies put them at high risk for fatal dehydration from diarrhoea.
- Globally, around 2.4 million deaths could be prevented annually if everyone practiced appropriate hygiene and had good, reliable sanitation and drinking water.
- Only one in 20 people washes their hands properly after going to the toilet.
(Zaakirah Rossier, Health24, updated November 2013)