Toilet provisions for women in the UK must be boosted so there are two female toilets to every male one, according to a new report on the state of public facilities.
The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) recommends new laws governing female toilets in the UK, and cites existing “potty parity” laws in the US and Canada, where a two-to-one ratio is mandated in some jurisdictions.
A two-to-one ratio is recommended “because of time consuming factors related to clothing, menstruation, and anatomical differences,” reads the report. The existing British standard is 1:1.
It also says more unisex facilities are needed to ensure equality of access, as well as better provision for transgender individuals.
The report, which is titled “Taking the P***,” also raises concerns about the decline in the number of public toilets in the UK, with 74% of the 2,089 people interviewed saying there are not enough toilets in their area.
Some 700 council-run toilets have closed since 2010, the authors say, and the lack of facilities has a negative impact on public health.
As many as one in five people don’t leave their homes as much as they would like to because of worries over a lack of public toilets, which acts as a so-called “loo leash.”
This is particularly important for people with health conditions which necessitate frequent toilet use, including diabetes or bowel conditions, 43% of whom say they don’t go out as much as they would like.
And 56% of respondents say they deliberately dehydrate themselves because of a lack of public toilets, which is known to have negative health effects.
The lack of toilet facilities also has an impact on efforts to reduce obesity and keep elderly people active, the authors say.
“Our report highlights that the dwindling public toilet numbers in recent years is a threat to health, mobility, and equality that we cannot afford to ignore,” said RSPH CEO Shirley Cramer.
“As is so often the case in this country, it is a health burden that falls disproportionately on already disadvantaged groups.”
RSPH has called on the government to make local councils provide public toilets, although it recognizes that the financial burden would at present be too high given years of funding cuts to local authorities.
With that in mind the report urges the government to reverse funding cuts and provide more money for investment in civil infrastructure.
“Although they often go unnoticed, public toilets are an extremely important and necessary part of any urban environment,” said Tony Rheinberg, healthcare and commercial marketing manager at bathroom manufacturer Armitage Shanks.
“This has been made all too clear with this research which shows how a lack of facilities can have a significant impact on public health and wellbeing.”