HOUGHTON, Mich., June 19 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they've found latrines might be better than indoor plumbing to promote sanitary conditions in some developing nations.
Michigan Technological University researchers analyzed worldwide barriers to sanitation that might stop such diseases as dysentery. Surprisingly, they said they found a scarcity of clean drinking water is not as big an issue as they expected.
Associate Professor David Watkins, Professor James Mihelcic and Ph.D. student Lauren Fry found installing appliances such as toilets can actually promote unsanitary conditions when the effluent is discharged, untreated, into once-clean rivers and streams.
But they discovered a properly built latrine keeps sewage safely separated from drinking water.
The researchers said their findings show small changes can be more important in preserving health than big engineering projects. "Even a simple thing like not dipping your hand into the water pot can make a big difference," said Watkins.
However, getting people to change their habits can be more difficult than building infrastructure.
"They may not understand the science, and because it is about parasites and bacteria that they can't see, they may not recognize the risks," Watkins said.
Their findings appeared in the journal Environmental Science and Technology and is available at http://pubs.acs.org/cgi-bin/abstract.cgi/esthag/2008/42/i12/abs/es7025856.html