AskDefine | Define sanitation

Dictionary Definition



1 the state of being clean and conducive to health
2 making something sanitary (free of germs) as by sterilizing [syn: sanitization, sanitisation]

User Contributed Dictionary



From the contraction of sanitary, sanit + -ation



  1. The hygienic disposal or recycling of waste.
  2. The policy and practice of protecting health through hygienic measures.


Related terms


the hygienic disposal or recycling of waste
the policy and practice
  • Japanese: 公衆衛生

Extensive Definition

Sanitation is the hygienic means of preventing human contact from the hazards of wastes to promote health. Hazards can be either physical, microbiological, biological or chemical agents of disease. Wastes that can cause health problems are human and animal feces, solid wastes, domestic wastewater (sewage, sullage, greywater), industrial wastes, and agricultural wastes and now appliances in disuse wastes like cars, computers,household appliances, electronic appliances(bulbs, regulators) Hygienic means of prevention can be by using engineering solutions (e.g. sewerage and wastewater treatment), simple technologies (e.g.latrines, septic tanks), or even by personal hygiene practices (e.g. simple handwashing with soap).
The term "sanitation" can be applied to a specific aspect, concept, location, or strategy, such as:
  • Basic sanitation - refers to the management of human feces at the household level. This terminology is the indicator used to describe the target of the Millennium Development Goal on sanitation.
  • On-site sanitation - the collection and treatment of waste is done where it is deposited. Examples are the use of pit latrines, septic tanks, and imhoff tanks.
  • Food sanitation - refers to the hygienic measures for ensuring food safety.
  • Environmental sanitation - the control of environmental factors that form links in disease transmission. Subsets of this category are solid waste management, water and wastewater treatment, industrial waste treatment and noise and pollution control.
  • Ecological sanitation - a concept and an approach of recycling to nature the nutrients from human and animal wastes.

Sanitation and wastewater

Wastewater collection

The standard sanitation technology in urban areas is the collection of wastewater in sewers, its treatment in wastewater treatment plants for reuse or disposal in rivers, lakes or the sea. Sewers are either combined with storm drains or separated from them as sanitary sewers. Combined sewers are usually found in the central, older parts or urban areas. Heavy rainfall and inadequate maintenance can lead to combined sewer overflows or sanitary sewer overflows, i.e. more or less diluted raw sewage being discharged into the environment. Industries often discharge wastewater into municipal sewers, which can complicate wastewater treatment unless industries pre-treat their discharges.
The high investment cost of conventional wastewater collection systems are difficult to afford for many developing countries. Some countries have therefore promoted alternative wastewater collection systems such as condominial sewerage, which uses smaller diameter pipes at lower depth with different network layouts from conventional sewerage.

Wastewater treatment

In developed countries treatment of municipal wastewater is now widespread, but not yet universal (for an overview of technologies see wastewater treatment). In developing countries most wastewater is still discharge untreated into the environment. For example, in Latin America only about 15% of collected sewerage is being treated (see water and sanitation in Latin America)

Reuse of wastewater

The reuse of untreated wastewater in irrigated agriculture is common in developing countries. The reuse of treated wastewater in landscaping (esp. on golf courses), irrigated agriculture and for industrial use is becoming increasingly widespread.
In many peri-urban and rural areas households are not connected to sewers. They discharge their wastewater into septic tanks or other types of on-site sanitation.

Ecological sanitation

Ecological sanitation is sometimes presented as a radical alternative to conventional sanitation systems. Ecological sanitation is based on the separation of urine and feces at the source for sanitization and recycling. It thus eliminates fecal pathogens from the wastewater flow. If ecological sanitation is practiced municipal wastewater consists of greywater, which can be recycled for gardening. However, in most cases greywater continues to be discharged to sewers.

Sanitation and public health

The importance of waste isolation lies in an effort to prevent water and sanitation related diseases, which afflicts both developed countries as well as developing countries to differing degrees. It is estimated that up to 5 million people die each year from preventable water-borne disease, as a result of inadequate sanitation and hygiene practices.

Global access to improved sanitation

The Joint Monitoring Program for water and sanitation of WHO and UNICEF has defined improved sanitation as
  • connection to a public sewer
  • connection to a septic system
  • pour-flush latrine
  • simple pit latrine
  • ventilated improved pit latrine
According to that definition, 59% of the world population had access to improved sanitation in 2004. Only slightly more than half of them or 31% of the world population lived in houses connected to a sewer. Overall, 2.6 billion people lacked access to improved sanitation and thus had to resort to open defecation or other unsanitary forms of defecation, such as public latrines or open pit latrines. This outcome presents substantial public health risks as the waste could contaminate drinking water and cause life threatening forms of diarrhea to infants.
In developed countries, where less than 20% of the world population lives, 99% of the population has access to improved sanitation and 81% were connected to sewers.

Solid waste disposal

Disposal of solid waste is most commonly conducted in landfills, but incineration, recycling, composting and conversion to biofuels are also avenues. In the case of landfills, advanced countries typically have rigid protocols for daily cover with topsoil, where underdeveloped countries customarily rely upon less stringent proocols. The importance of daily cover lies in the reduction of vector contact and spreading of pathogens. Daily cover also minimises odour emissions and reduces windblown litter. Likewise, developed countries typically have requirements for perimeter sealing of the landfill with clay-type soils to minimize migration of leachate that could contaminate groundwater (and hence jeopardize some drinking water supplies).
For incineration options, the release of air pollutants, including certain toxic components is an attendant adverse outcome. Recycling and biofuel conversion are the sustainable options that generally have superior life cycle costs, particularly when total ecological consequences are considered. Composting value will ultimately be limited by the market demand for compost product.

Sanitation in developed countries

In US, sanitation is a legislative requirement of OSH, which is governed by 29 CFR Part 1910.141 .

Sanitation in the developing world

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) include a target to reduce by half the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation by 2015. In December 2006, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2008 'The International Year of Sanitation', in recognition of the slow progress being made towards the MDGs sanitation target. The year aims to develop awareness and action to meet the target. Particular concerns are:
  • Removing the stigma around sanitation, so that the importance of sanitation can be more easily and publicly discussed.
  • Highlighting the poverty reduction, health and other benefits that flow from better hygiene, household sanitation arrangements and wastewater treatment.
Research from the Overseas Development Institute suggests that sanitation and hygiene promotion needs to be better 'mainstreamed' in development, if the MDG on sanitation is to be met. At present, promotion of sanitation and hygiene is mainly carried out through water institutions. The research argues that there are, in fact, many institutions that should carry out activities to develop better sanitation and hygiene in developing countries. For example, educational institutions can teach on hygiene, and health institutions can dedicate resources to preventative works (to avoid, for example, outbreaks of cholera).

Sanitation in the food industry

See also

sanitation in German: Abwasserentsorgung
sanitation in French: Assainissement
sanitation in Spanish: Saneamiento ambiental
sanitation in Indonesian: Sanitasi
sanitation in Malay (macrolanguage): Sanitasi

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

antisepsis, decontamination, disinfection, disinfestation, epidemiology, flash pasteurization, fumigation, health physics, hygenics, hygiene, hygienics, mental hygiene, pasteurization, preventive dentistry, preventive medicine, prophylactic psychology, prophylactodontia, prophylaxis, public health, sterilization
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