Environment Health & Safety

ISO’s two-step solution to improving sanitation for 2.4 billion people

Many of us take toilets for granted, yet as many as one in three people are struggling because they lack access to one. This can lead to poor health, absenteeism from work and school, lack of privacy and safety, reduced concentration and exhaustion. In fact, loss of productivity from poor sanitation and hygiene is estimated to cost many countries up to 5 % of GDP. ISO standards can help reverse this trend and improve the quality of life and dignity of 2.4 billion people.

World Toilet Day (19 November) draws attention to the importance of sanitation in creating a strong economy, improving health and protecting people’s safety and dignity. Ensuring access to toilets for everyone everywhere by 2030 is a global development priority included in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Many people around the world in both developed and developing countries, especially in rural areas, rely on basic on-site sanitation systems like outhouses and latrines. On-site systems, where the wastewater treatment is done locally rather than off-site (sewage system), can be a hygienic low-cost solution when implemented correctly and the waste is disposed of safely. However, many local communities, especially in developing countries, lack the necessary knowledge and resources, so the services are either set up poorly or don’t exist.

The new ISO 24521 aims to change this by offering practical guidance on the management and maintenance of basic on-site domestic wastewater services. The standard also offers advice on training users and operators, evaluating risks and designing and building basic on-site domestic wastewater systems, including alternative technologies that can be set up using local resources. ISO 24521 can be used by both publicly and privately operated sanitation wastewater services for one or more dwellings, regardless of the type of facility model.


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