Re: GBlist: toilets

Ron Sutcliffe (
Tue, 11 Feb 1997 22:49:10 -0700

Hal Levin writes;

These are not safe methods of human waste disposal. The Nineteenth
> presented many health hazards not generally seen today both because of
> effective pollution prevention and because of the advent of antibiotics and
> other medical treatments. I do not advocate pit privies. I only make the
> point because it is an illusion most people share that septic tanks and
> municipal sewage systems are safe.
> BTW, are you really suggesting that Hydrogen sulfide is a significant hazard
> of pit privies? Lots of things that are around us all the time (CO, for
> example) are a serious hazard at high enough concentrations. Do people
> actually find these life-threatening concentrations of hydrogen sulfide
> coming from pit privies? If your answer is affirmative, please give me some
> references to peer-reviewed literature. I am more than a little curious.
I agree that the present accepted systems for waste disposal are not
always safe. They could be, maybe. Refer to my statements to that
effect in my last message. Ideologically I feel the concept of waste is
a major culpret in the whole dysfunctional reliance upon traditional
treatment systems. composting toilets offer a way to break this notion
of waste and view our excreta as a wonderful resource.

I did realize that Hal was probably not an avocate of the pit privy,
however I did use his statement to launch into a debate that we feel is
needed and worthwhile.

The hydrogen sulfide question is as Hal states, mostly at low enough
concentrations to be of no noticable effect even in the pit privy
situation (unless its inside an airtight structure). However it is a
concern inasmuch as we don't know the health effects of longterm, low
level exposures.

Finally, the pit privy can be an advancement to other methods of excreta
disposal such as the nightsoil buckets directly to vegetable garden
method which is employed throughout parts of the world. However there
are other methods that provide a more decent quality of life to
populations who choose to use them.

keepin me on my toes

Ron Sutcliffe

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