Gates Foundation pushes for sanitary toilets to reduce child death rates
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 12/18/2012 -- While Canadians do not spend too much time thinking about the toilet, the fact is that it is not a luxury for many around the world. A whopping (and to many, surprising) number of individuals will never experience the use of sanitary toilet use, like many Canadians enjoy every day.
Over 2.5 billion individuals still use fields, rivers, or plastic bags when defecating. Many live in villages, and use foul-spelling and unsanitary utensils like buckets or latrines that are unfit by most human standards. Most are afforded no privacy when defecating, and many are on vessels, like streams and rivers, which are prime for diseases.
The World Health Organization note that diarrheal diseases linked to poor sanitation are at fault for nearly 1.5 million children each year. That tally is a higher total than for those that succumb to diseases like AIDS, malaria, and measles combined.
The University of Toronto currently has engineers who are committed to finding a way to better the toileting situation for many around the world. The team has been given a green light for $2.2 million in grant money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in order to develop hygienic toilets. The true power of these hygienic units is that they are wholly waterless.
The design is cause for a paradigm shift when it comes to toilet use. Current toilet design has not changed dramatically since created by Thomas Crapper. The problem comes in the fact that areas of sub-Saharan Africa, as well as parts of Asia, cannot rely on running water and proper sewer systems throughout the year, if at all.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was aware of the problem, and launched a “Reinventing the Toilet Challenge,” which handed out eight grants to institutions across the globe, that looked to find a way to fix the problem at hand.
University of Toronto's engineering professor Mark Kortschot, stated that the challenge is anything but simple.
"The challenge is to develop a toilet that can work off-grid, with no connection to sewer, water or electricity," Kortschot told CTV News Channel this week.
The U of T team came up with a squat toilet which drops waste onto an inclined belt, which separates liquid from solid streams. The liquid portion falls through a sand filter, wherein ultraviolet light cleans the urine.
"It would produce a disinfected liquid that could be used on a vegetable garden for instance," Kortschot explained.
The solid portion is flattened into disc form and allows to dry along the belt, moving each time the hand crank is used (by a new user).
"Each person who uses the toilet winds the belt a little further along, where it would dry over 24 hours,” says Kortschot.
The waste is then sent through a combustion chamber, much like a standard charcoal barbecue, and is incinerated without need for flame. “We now want to develop it to the point that it could be field tested and streamlined for mass production," Kortschot said.
Bill Gates has stated that a new toilet system is one of the most important projects for reducing the death of children across the globe.
“Innovative solutions change people’s lives for the better,” Gates said in August, during the first phase of the contest. “If we apply creative thinking to everyday challenges, such as dealing with human waste, we can fix some of the world’s toughest problems.”
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