The loo, the W.C., the lavatory, the privy, the porcelain god -- while it goes by many names, the toilet -- one of life's most mundane objects -- plays a fundamental role in society.
Yet more than a third of the world's population lacks access to even a basic pit latrine, and the problem may get worse. A recent statistical analysis predicts the world population will hit 11 billion by 2100. From preventing illness to fostering education, here are five ways toilets change the world:
1. Keeping people healthy Improper disposal of human waste can cause devastating illness. When people don't have toilets, they defecate in the open, often near living areas or the rivers that supply water for drinking or bathing. For example, about 290,000 gallons (1.1 million liters) of raw sewage goes into the Ganges River in India every minute, according to the World Health Organization. [Through the Years: A Gallery of the World's Toilets]
Contaminated water causes diarrheal diseases such as cholera, which afflict many people on a chronic basis. In 2012, heavy rains in Sierra Leone and Guinea caused latrines to flood, bringing on a deadly cholera outbreak that killed more than 392 people and sickened more than 25,000 others, according to news reports.