The world health organization (WHO) defines sanitation as:

  • Sanitation is disposal of human waste
    • Urine
    • Feces

The implementation of good sanitation practices is the only way to assure long-term control of contamination and dangerous diseases. All you need do is look around the world to nations with corrupt or dysfunctional governments and societal units and you will find disease and suffering. That suffering is entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, those with the power want the people weak and suffering. It is a tool of power and manipulation. That is one of the foundational differences between first world nations and “undeveloped” nations. Infrastructure. We can argue about the condition of the infrastructure but we will not go down that rabbit hole in this article.

Most health organizations and governments have paid their attention to developing infrastructure facilities to improve sanitation all over the world.

The progression of poor sanitation:

  • Urine and feces is released, untreated, into rivers and streams
  • Rivers and streams fester from the untreated sewerage.
    • The water becomes rife with pathogenic microorganisms
  • The drinking water becomes polluted by the sewerage and pathogenic microorganisms in the surface water
  • Food grown in soil leaches pathogens from the ground water and irrigation of polluted water
  • Areas of standing polluted water is a breeding ground for insects that spread diseases


Hygiene focuses on cleanliness of that associated to the human body. Sanitation applies to that which is in our exterior environment. While I agree with WHO that direct human waste handling is part of sanitation, there is so much more. Most things that humans do, cause, or create, which can poison our water, our food, our air fall under sanitation.

The direct output of humans in not limited to urine and fecal matter. One of the most destructive is the one which no one wants to think about or discuss; dead bodies. Imagine standing where this Haitian woman is, knowing what little that you do, what would you be doing, thinking, how long before you are in that sad pile? Do you know the threat that such a scene poses? Did you know that the exponential spread of Ebola was a result of the ritual handling of the dead?

Proper disposal of human dead is a third rail for most people in first world countries. Modern humans have an inherent fear of death. It is likely a combination of horror movies and centuries old religious dogma. That said, as the old saying goes, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."  [1] According to the World Health Organization, 56 million people die each year, which is an average of about 153,424 people each day. According to the United Nations, 2,473,018 people died in the United States in 2008, an average of 6,775 per day. Those numbers are on a “regular day.” Imagine how much that number increases during a prolonged crisis. Sanitation includes the proper handling and disposal of the dead.

I am working with a coroner and funeral director to develop an entire section on the topic.

Here is why you will need to know what to do. Improper disposal and handling of human dead results in a disastrous set of health threats to the living. Nearly all dangers posed from dead human remains are a result of improper handling, preparation, and disposal of cadavers. Normal conditions allow for rapid embalming, cremation, or burial. During times of crisis or disaster the lack of general services including running potable water, electricity, etc. slow processing of the dead. There have been times when the number of dead simple exceed storage, processing, and disposal options. In such cases, the decomposition and putrefaction of cadavers goes unchecked, these conditions create a series of health, logistical, and psychological challenges. Makeshift morgues, body disinfectants, and burial become high priority.


[1] Benjamin Franklin (1706-90) used the form we are currently more familiar with, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 1789, which was re-printed in The Works of Benjamin Franklin, 1817: