Six in 10 People Worldwide Lack Access to Sanitation

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—In gastrointestinal endoscopy suites the issue of bodily waste is commonplace. GI endoscopy professionals diagnose how the body processes waste, and they deal with how to remove that waste from the body (bowel preps) and from instruments. Through daily rigors these matters start to seem simple but are actually quite complex. The ease of waste management in developed nations shadows the fact that in many parts of the world just finding a safe, clean place to expel waste where it won't harm the environment or humans, is impossible.

It may be the 21st century, with all its technological marvels, but six out of every 10 people on Earth still do not have access to flush toilets or other adequate sanitation that protects the user and the surrounding community from harmful health effects, a new study has found. The research, published in the American Chemical Society's journal Environmental Science & Technology, said the number of people without access to improved sanitation is almost double the previous estimate.

Amie Bartram and colleagues explain that the current definition of "improved sanitation" focuses on separating humans from human excrement, but 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.

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