WASHINGTON, May 30, 2013 — The latest episode in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS’) award-winning Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions podcast series describes research concluding that the number of people without access to flush toilets or other adequate sanitation is almost double the previous estimate.
It may be the 21st century, with all its technological marvels, but 6 out of every 10 people on Earth still do not have access to flush toilets or other adequate sanitation — measures that protect the user and the surrounding community from harmful health effects — according to a new study.
Jamie Bartram and colleagues explain that the current definition of “improved sanitation” focuses on separating humans from human excrement. However, it does not include treating that sewage or other measures to prevent it from contaminating rivers, lakes and oceans. Using that definition, 2010 United Nations estimates concluded that 4.3 billion people had access to improved sanitation and 2.6 billion did not.
The new estimates used what the authors regarded as a more realistic definition from the standpoint of global health, since untreated sewage is a major cause of disease. They refined the definition of “improved sanitation” by discounting sewage systems lacking access to sewage treatment. They concluded that about 60 percent of the world’s population does not have access to improved sanitation, up from the previous estimate of 38 percent.
Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions is a series of podcasts describing some of the 21st century’s most daunting problems, and how cutting-edge research in chemistry matters in the quest for solutions. Global Challenges is the centerpiece in an alliance on sustainability between ACS and the Royal Society of Chemistry. Global Challenges is a sweeping panorama of global challenges that includes dilemmas such as providing a hungry and thirsty world with ample supplies of safe food and clean water, developing alternatives to petroleum to fuel society, preserving the environment and ensuring a sustainable future for our children and improving human health.