Most people believe that diseases were conquered by vaccines and modern medicine, but that is not entirely true. Any Houston plumber knows that the real heroes in the battle against a host of afflictions were clean water and effective sewage systems. While medicines are far more glamorous and receive all the accolades, accessible modern plumbing effectively removed the breeding grounds for illnesses like polio, cholera and typhoid. These diseases, and many others that breed in fecal matter, could actually be grouped together as no-plumbing diseases.
Even today, some countries are finally convincing their citizens that the habits of the past, such as open defecation in rural areas, are to blame for widespread outbreaks of diseases that are relatively uncommon if not totally eliminated in other countries.
Some Asian nations have caught on and mounted aggressive education campaigns to discourage open defecation. Along with the new knowledge came government-funded water filters, toilets and inexpensive toilet kits for people to make their own latrines in their homes.
India is in the middle of a campaign to modernize ideas and provide facilities for its people. Millions of homes are without toilets, so the common practice is to go into the woods or a field to defecate. This was considered undignified for women, who were forced to wait until after dark, to “cross their legs” or “go to the back,” as they refer to relieving themselves. This practice left them susceptible to attacks and rape when they were in the dark and vulnerable. Some people said that under the hot sun, the smell from the fields was overwhelming.
Due in large part to India’s size, the ongoing task of providing toilets for every household is monumental. Vaccination programs are far more successful in reaching the masses, but without modern plumbing, many diseases are still being caught and spread by open defecation. These specific ailments begin a vicious cycle that is spurred on because they cause rampant outbreaks of diarrhea. This exacerbates the problem because it pollutes the water table. In some areas, rivers and other sources of water are used as toilets or become contaminated by the runoff from nearby fields and forests.
Even in the United States, plumbing that is not in perfect working order can cause such maladies as Legionnaires’ disease, giardia and afflictions related to mold spores. That is why it is critical to schedule a water heater or Houston shower pan repair if your system is not operating perfectly. The threat of these diseases is most serious in densely populated cities, remote rural communities and impoverished areas.
India may have seen a dramatic drop in polio thanks to widespread immunization programs, but those numbers do not include portions of the country where sanitary facilities for defecation and the removal of the waste are non-existent. Outbreaks in those areas are often unreported. Until the entire country is effectively dealing with the problem, typhoid, cholera and polio will continue to be spread through poor sanitation and long-established cultural habits.
The problem is monumental, and the statistics are staggering. Some 780 million Indians do not have a toilet, and 96 million have no access to clean drinking water. Just the simple process of burying the waste left in the fields by open defecation would improve the situation somewhat.
We have become so accustomed to the luxury of modern plumbing in the U.S. that we take it for granted. While big pharma may hog the glory for the reduction of diseases in many modern countries, their vaccines would be far less effective without a sanitary means of transporting and disposing of waste. Plumbers are the unsung heroes. Their daily labors effectively reduce the opportunities for diseases to breed and spread.