New toilets for refugee camps, the worst loo in Swindon and why public toilet seats are safe

Among the many indignities of life in refugee camps is the difficulty in accessing toilet facilities, with long walks and long queues invariably involved, as well as unsanitary conditions in toilets and high rates of outdoor urination and defecation. Camps have had outbreaks of diseases from dirty toilet facilities and some refugees have spent so long holding it in to avoid using toilets that they have developed urinary tract infections. Phys.org reports on a project to alleviate this problem. At MIT, Change: WATERlabs are designing an “evaporative” toilet for use where sewage, running water and electricity are not available. As most human waste is liquid, it is possible to quickly vapourise up to 95% of it. The toilet contains a polymer, which behaves like a sponge, soaking up water waste and releasing it safely as a vapour, while keeping solid waste separate. The project hopes to introduce the toilets into the refugee camps in Jordan initially, to eliminate the dangerous cesspools, starting in the “next several months”.

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A Syrian child at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan – photo from Melih Cevdet Teksen/Shutterstock

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This Is Wiltshire has a story on the men’s toilets in Swindon Bus Station, which are re-opening after having been closed following a sustained vandalism problem. “The damage included defecation on the floor, faeces being spread on the walls and clothing being pushed in to the toilet bowls causing blockages and over-flowing.” The culprit for many of these repeated acts of vandalism has been put under an injunction to which he is conforming and the station is now happy to re-open the toilet. (Incidentally, This Is Wiltshire calls them “male toilets”, which is a growing trend and it annoys me – the people who use them are male, the toilets themselves aren’t male – that would be crazy.)

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Finally, some comfort from the Australian Lifehacker website. You won’t catch a disease from sitting on a toilet seat. Even one with visible urine sprinkles on. The microbes on a toilet seat are the same ones that are living on your skin anyway. So long as your urethra doesn’t touch the toilet seat, and it won’t, you should be fine. Hurray!

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