- Title: UNITED KINGDOM: Squatters right, says student toilet designer
- Date: 1st August 2013
- Summary: NOIDA, UTTAR PRADESH, INDIA (FILE) (REUTERS) SQUAT TOILET INSIDE TRAIN CARRIAGE N'TJIBOUGOU, MALI (FILE) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF SQUAT TOILET BEING WASHED
- Embargoed: 16th August 2013 13:00
- Location: United Kingdom
- Country: United Kingdom
- Topics: Health,Science
- Reuters ID: LVABEZ58B3UO8GFBCSEAX4O6UCQS
- Story Text: A British student has designed what he hopes will become a squatting toilet for the western world. He says his design will provide health benefits to users and herald the eventual demise of the traditional seated lavatory.
Peter Codling, an Innovation Design graduate of the Royal College of Art (RCA), said western toilet design leads to user's colons being "cinched", preventing optimal bowel evacuation. He set out to create a toilet for the 21st Century that would rectify what he regards as the seated water closet's fatal flaw. He came up with the 'Penseur', a French word meaning 'thinker'.
"Squatting is much healthier for you. You have a muscle that's connected to your pelvis that in a sitting position cinches closed your colon and stops you from going completely and quickly, as you should do. In the squatting position this muscle is relaxed and you can go and your colon is straightened, which enables you to go quickly and much more completely. So with these health benefits I wanted to create a toilet that put you in a squatting position, but enabled you to get in and out of position very easily, at the same time as without the negative connotations of squatting in the corner of a room," he said.
First Codling devised a range of rudimentary ergonomic, clay model rigs, to work out the best angle for users. In order to "understand people's deep-seated emotional connection" to toilet use, he posted questionnaires in toilets, taking the advice into account.
Believing that functionality and health benefits might not be enough to entice manufacturers to take on his invention, Codling plans to incorporate top-of-the-range technology, such as a touchscreen programmable bidet washlet.
"So it has full bidet and washlet functionality, so the user has a small touchscreen that they can program the various temperature and force and pressure and massage functions that the best toilets on the market do at the moment. At the same time that it has a sensor, so it knows where you are and it can manoeuvre to perfectly cleanse you post 'the act," he said.
A child's seat, designed to enable younger children to learn to use an adult toilet instead of a potty, is another feature.
Codling says other features of the prototype, such as the flush, need improving but he insists that he has received good feedback by those who have tried out the Penseur for size.
"These pads support the body, for the back and the bottom of the lower thigh, which enables the buttocks to be free, so to put someone in a new position like that and to have it comfortable was a tricky thing to do. So I've had to iterate many times to finally get the position that worked comfortably and I had my 83-year-old grandmother in this yesterday, so I'm quite certain that it works for a larger age range than a current sitting toilet," said Codling.
One of Britain's leading bowel experts, Charles Knowles, Professor of Surgical Research at Queen Mary University London, said there has been little scientific research on the perceived benefits of squat toilets, but said there were positives for sufferers of constipation in elevating their legs in order to open their colon. Knowles said a Penseur might be an attractive proposition for chronic constipation sufferers. He said: "I don't think it's going to be a game changer in preventing all known bowel illnesses because of course a great many of them, including colorectal cancer, have a strong genetic component. It doesn't matter what you do with the shape of your toilet, you're not going to alter that risk. I think its greatest perceived benefit will be around the efficiency of defecation, particularly in people who have a problem with that."
Deborah Gilbert, the chief executive of Bowel and Cancer Research, said the embarrassment of factor surrounding bowel illness meant the problem was under-reported. "I think in general it's very under-reported, so actually it's very hard to know what the general problems are. We know that constipation is an incredibly big problem over here, especially as we age, but because it's not very well known about, actually the extent of the problem isn't well defined."
Knowles agreed, saying that this embarrassment factor might make the Penseur a difficult sell among western consumers.
But visitors to the RCA seemed impressed. Sitting on the Penseur, one schoolboy said: "I would use it, because it's definitely more relaxing and easier to use and I don't think you need a back rest because it's definitely more comfortable."
"I think the shape of it may seem now a bit weird to people but that's what it is with everything, so I think it could be the replacement for the previous toilet," added another.
Codling hopes that the Penseur will be refined and put on the market within two years.
Advocates of squat toilets say they help prevent faecal stagnation, a prime factor in colon cancer, appendicitis and inflammatory bowel disease. They say chronic straining on the toilet can cause hernias, diverticulosis, and pelvic organ prolapse. There are several types of squat toilets, primarily used in the developing world, but they all consist essentially of a hole in the ground. The only exception is a 'pedestal' toilet, of the same height as a sitting toilet, sometimes used in Turkey.
The RCA is renowned for launching the careers of many famous designers - Sir James Dyson, inventor of the Dyson vacuum cleaner, and Thomas Heatherwick, responsible for the Olympic Cauldron at the 2012 London Games, are just some of their alumni.
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