Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Chapter 7: Building Toilets

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HealthWiki > A Community Guide to Environmental Health > Chapter 7: Building Toilets



A woman walks a child to a sheltered pit toilet as a man pours water for a child to wash his hands.

Human waste (feces and urine) can pollute water, food, and soil with germs and worms, leading to serious health problems (see diarrhea diseases, guinea worm, and blood flukes). The safe disposal of human waste (sanitation) by building and maintaining toilets and washing hands prevents the spread of germs and is necessary for good health.

Whether your community uses pit toilets, toilets that turn human waste into fertilizer (ecological sanitation), toilets that flush human wastes and water (sewage), or another type of toilet, the main goal is to prevent human waste from contaminating drinking water, food, and our hands. Just as important as a safe and comfortable toilet is a way to wash hands after using it. Safe toilets and hand washing together can prevent most of the illnesses that come from germs in human waste.

Poorly built toilets and sewage systems are a major cause of illness and groundwater contamination. As clean water becomes more scarce, disposing of human waste in ways that do not cause more water contamination becomes increasingly important.


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