Sanitation matters. Here’s why you should spread the message about World Toilet Day.

Toilet and bathroom habits are typically a taboo topic in the U.S. We blush when we excuse ourselves from a crowded room to use the “restroom,“ or “the facilities” or the “ladies’ room,” or some equally clever colloquialism.

But toilets are a luxury, and sanitation is perhaps the most under-appreciated privilege of a first-world country.

In honor of World Toilet Day, which has been celebrated on Nov. 19 since 2001, let’s pause for a minute to consider these facts:

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  • Worldwide, 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation.
  • 1 billion people still defecate in the open.
  • Half of India’s population — 620 million people — expel waste outside.
  • 443 million school days are lost each year due to water, sanitation and hygiene-related diseases.
  • Girls are especially susceptible, and often drop out of school because buildings lack bathrooms.
  • Poor sanitation is linked to 700,000 premature deaths annually.

This summer, the New York Times published an article about the chilling connection between sanitation and malnutrition. The article specifically discussed India, where poor sanitation is nearly a national crisis. Although the country has seen economic growth in recent years, malnutrition rates remain untouched and children’s growth rates are stunted, causing permanent physical and mental setbacks. Why? Studies have shown that poor sanitation, which results in exposure to all sorts of harmful bacteria, halts growth despite decent nutritional intake.

“These children’s bodies divert energy and nutrients away from growth and brain development to prioritize infection-fighting survival,” says Jean Humphrey, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in the NY Times article.

Folks, if that doesn’t give you chills, I don’t know what else to say. Sanitation is that critical. It’s key to health, to education, to economic growth, to fighting poverty. And that’s what World Toilet Day is about … speaking about a taboo topic and raising awareness of a need that’s outside our own.

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Today, I'm thankful for my toilet. I’m thankful for infrastructure that eliminates water-borne disease. I’m thankful for wastewater professionals who work tirelessly to provide that luxury.

Take a minute to spread the message. It matters.

For more information on World Toilet Day and what you can do to help, visit

Related: Blog: What would mother say?

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