World Toilet Day floats some serious health issues

Needs More Spikes blog finds 136 people are currently peeing in Vancouver Island city

Blogger Stephen Harrison of Needs More Spikes calculated Victoria residents urinate approximately 128,688 litres a day. (Needs More Spikes graph)

Blogger Stephen Harrison of Needs More Spikes calculated Victoria residents urinate approximately 128,688 litres a day. (Needs More Spikes graph)

Talking about toilets may seem like poor manners, but World Toilet Day seeks to address an important health issue that affects people around the globe.

Nov. 19 brings awareness to the lack of access to safe toilets. Supported by UN Water, World Health Organization and other international non-profits, a 2017 study shows 4.5 billion people live without safe, sanitary toilets. This can lead to contamination of soil and waterways, a safety and health hazard UN Water wants to eliminate by 2030.

But it’s not just developing countries plagued by the need to pee.

READ and WATCH MORE: How accessible are Victoria’s public washrooms?

Stephen Harrison, the blogger behind Needs More Spikes, examines defensive architecture in Victoria.

“There are lots of different things that are supposed to go unseen by most people. I wanted to document how the city has been built to limit use of public space by certain groups of people, in particular, homeless and poor people,” Harrison said. He points to examples of customer-only washroom signs in businesses throughout the city, and city council’s decision last spring to close Reeson and Quadra parks to overnight camping because they did not have washroom facilities (instead of adding facilities, Harrison notes).

On Nov. 8, he posted a blog that finds 136 people are peeing in Victoria right now. Harrison calculated the number by comparing the city’s population with the average amount, time and frequency people urinate in an average day. The stat, he said, was a way to highlight the daily need faced by everyone and inspire a larger discussion.

READ MORE: Mustard Seed rolls in record-breaking toilet paper numbers

“It’s not like washroom options are plentiful,” he said. “They’re scattered around, they’re not always available, some of them are locked. Lots of them lack amenities like soap and mirrors.”

Of the 22 public city-funded washrooms in Victoria, only three — at Langley Street, Centennial Square and Pandora Street — are available around the clock. One of them is a male-only urinal that can’t be accessed with a wheelchair or walker.

Harrison’s post was inspired by a washroom in the Atrium building on Blanshard that, while in a private business, used to be easily accessible with gender-neutral facilities. Then a “customers only” sign appeared, and patrons had to ask for a key from security or staff to use them. Such signs and how they’re enforced can create a barrier, he said, especially to homeless people or those who appear poor.

“Accessibility or amenities or general availability of washrooms are not plentiful, depending on who you are and the city or private businesses are treating you,” Harrison said.

One of the reasons businesses may enforce a customer-only rule, Harrison said, is because of the fear of drug use in their washrooms.

“I totally get that a barista or other staff might not want to respond as defacto-first responders, but for any business operating here, the community they’re serving includes people who use drugs,” he said. “If businesses are troubled by people using drugs in their washrooms, then perhaps they should be fighting the stigma around drug-use and fighting for things like decriminalization. Whereas locking bathroom doors is contributing to stigma…which pushes people away and could do real harm.”

After he wrote his washrooms post, Harrison said a friend pointed out that homeless people often drink fewer fluids when they know they don’t have regular access to toilets. That can create another kind of health issue.

READ MORE: Interest in park growing by the toilet paper roll


@KeiliBartlett
keili.bartlett@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

The male-only urinal on Pandora and Government Street is too narrow to be easily accessed by a wheelchair user. (Keili Bartlett/News staff)

The male-only urinal on Pandora and Government Street is too narrow to be easily accessed by a wheelchair user. (Keili Bartlett/News staff)

Just Posted

General voting day for the Terrace trustee by-election is Saturday, March 6 at the Terrace Sportsplex Multipurpose Room from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Black Press file photo)
Terrace trustee by-election: Meet the candidates

General voting day is March 6 at the Terrace Sportsplex Multipurpose Room from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Terrace RCMP arrested two men on Feb. 17 after they were told to leave the Sunshine Inn and then became combative with police. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Terrace RCMP arrest men visiting a person in COVID-19 isolation

Men attempted to strike police with a chair, threatened to kill officers when told to leave

The Terrace & District Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual all candidates forum for the Coast Mountains School District trustee by-election on Feb. 23, 2021. (Screenshot/Terrace & District Chamber of Commerce Facebook)
Terrace trustee candidates lay out top priorites during virual all candidates forum

All candidates forum was held virtually on Feb. 23, 2021

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

This poster, spreading misinformation regarding COVID-19 restrictions, has been popping up in communities across Vancouver Island.
Poster popping up on Vancouver Island falsely claims COVID restrictions are over

Unattributed poster claims COVID restrictions ended March 1; Island Health responds

COVID-19 vaccines were available at a site on East Pender in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Feb. 25. (Twitter/Sarahblyth17)
Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside residents offered $5 after getting COVID-19 vaccine

It’s an effort to ‘incentivize people to engage,’ says B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix

</p>
A survey by Statistics Canada finds Black Canadians earn less than non-visible minority Canadians despite having higher levels of education. (The Canadian Press file photo)
COVID-19 worsened unemployment picture for Black Canadians

Black Canadians also more likely to suffer other hardships

(Black Press Media files)
B.C. teacher transferred then suspended after students report feeling ‘scared, nervous’

Authorities found that teacher did not create inviting, respectful environment for students

Victoria’s Swartz Bay terminal. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries offers cheaper, prepaid fare options

Ferry service preparing for busy terminals when travel restrictions are lifted

FILE - Dolly Parton arrives at the 61st annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Grammy-winning singer, actor and humanitarian posted a video on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, of her singing just before getting her COVID-19 vaccine shot. Parton donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee for coronavirus research. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
‘Vaccine, vaccine’: Dolly sings ‘Jolene’ rewrite before shot

The Grammy-winning legend turned 75 this year

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland speaks about the Fiscal update during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday November 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
COVID-19: Wage and rent subsidies, lockdown support to be extended until June

Chrystia Freeland says now is not time to lower levels of support

The area on Cordova Bay Road where ancestral human remains were discovered Feb. 22. (Submitted photo)
Human remains discovery a reminder of B.C. Indigenous culture dug up and displaced

‘These are the people who inspired and birthed the generations that we now have here’

Most Read