This was a bad thing to read right after getting over a bout of food poisoning*:
A lack of toilets costs India more than $50 billion a year, mostly through premature deaths and hygiene-related diseases, a study found.
Illness, lost productivity and other consequences of fouled water and inadequate sewage treatment trimmed 6.4 percent from India’s gross domestic product in 2006, or the equivalent of $53.8 billion, according to the study by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program.
Though I believe India is the worst off in this regard outside of Africa, this is a problem pretty much world wide – New York City’s sanitation system spews sewage into the Hudson if its hit by more than half an inch of rain in an hour. The benefits of better sanitation are also much larger than they would seem on first glance, besides the various diseases that could be done away with, they’ve found elementary school attendance in poor countries jumps considerably if the kids don’t have to run out to the nearest field to use the bathroom.
I recommend the Big Necessity by Rose George to anyone who can stomach reading about the issue.
*The primary cause of food poisoning in urban China is bad cooking oil. Anyone who is dumb enough to drink tap water or not wash their fruits will also have problems, but that’s usually a mistake you’ll only make once. Sanitation is still a problem though. A major problem in poorer areas.