A child dies every 15 seconds due to illness related to waterborne disease. More than 1.5 million of these children are younger than 5.

You can find that startling statistic on the International Code Council’s recently launched Web site,www.iccsafe.org. We encourage you to visit the site where you’ll find more eye-opening facts, such as:
  • 1.1 billion people are without access to safe drinking water.
  • 2.6 billion people - 42% of the world’s population  - do not have a secure place to use a toilet and otherwise lack safe sanitation.
  • 443 million school days are lost annually worldwide due to diarrhea-related disease.

    Earlier this month in Macau, ICC participated in the World Toilet Summit & Expo. During the Summit, speakers addressed methods and technologies that would help achieve safe sanitation worldwide. During the Expo, plumbing companies could pursue business opportunities in developing nations in Asia.

    ICC is not alone in calling attention to the problems caused by poor sanitation, polluted water supplies, and faulty or nonexistent plumbing systems. At IAPMO’s International Emerging Technology Symposium, which I co-moderated in August, Jennifer Mercer of the World Health Organization presented stark reminders of the millions of infant deaths caused by water-borne diseases.

    She also spoke of the positive impact that a nation’s plumbing can make not only on its public health, but also on its economy. Unfortunately, she said, much of the world has a limited recognition of the difference that plumbing can make.

    Awareness, in this case, is a two-way street. On one side, the plumbing industry must work to raise the awareness among people in developing nations of the importance of proper sanitation. Plumbing engineers will play a pivotal role in working with these countries to help them manage their water supplies and design their plumbing systems.

    On the other side, we should raise our own awareness of the plight suffered by billions of people resulting from poor sanitation. The United Nations has declared 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation, in part to call attention to the life-and-death situations caused by unsanitary conditions in China, India and other developing countries.

    Solving these problems, of course, demands more than awareness. On the most basic level, people’s behaviors must change.

    And, even in these financially strapped times, money is required to upgrade plumbing systems. Nations and municipalities need stricter regulations and code enforcement as well.

    The International Year of Sanitation will conclude at the end of next month. The tragedies brought by poor sanitation will persist until we find solutions.