Using psychology to change deadly bathroom habits in India

Using psychology to change deadly bathroom habits in India | Source: Philly.com, Aug 28 2016 |

In two cities in eastern India, Pamela Dalton’s team walks around pointing Nasal Rangers – devices resembling oversized hair dryers – into half-completed community toilets.

Then they sniff.

potty

DEBASMITA MOHANTY Jayalalita Lenka, a surveyor on the Potty Project team, uses a Nasal Ranger to record the odors in a community toilet under construction in Bhubaneswar, India.

Dalton is an experimental psychologist from Philadelphia whose specialty is how people perceive and respond to odors. The odd-looking devices collect chemical data on aromas of all kinds, before and after the toilets are open for use. The goal: Get more people to use the facilities.

 People don’t want to relieve themselves indoors, Dalton said, and the intensity of bad smells is part of the problem. While the smell of human waste is diluted outdoors, without proper sanitation, it concentrates indoors, sending residents to relieve themselves elsewhere.

Poor sanitation is a leading cause of child mortality and disease in the developing world. India has the highest rates of what officials call open defecation, according to the World Health Organization. Many residents of urban slums come from villages where they may never have seen a modern toilet, and have no idea that waste can be infectious.

“People just defecate wherever,” said Dalton, a faculty member at the Monell Chemical Senses Center. “They’re used to going outside.”

So Dalton’s team, which is overseeing construction of dozens of new community toilets, is trying to make the new facilities more appealing. Part of that is studying the current state of stench.

Read the complete article.

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