Necessary rooms

Everyone uses them. Blue prints for any public building must include at least one. They even make the news occasionally – as seen in the following reports from Capitol Hill, scientific research labs and the streets of China – all discussing one aspect or another about the necessary room and its porcelain throne.
The report from the United States Congress could have originated about any one of hundreds of public buildings. The problem caught the attention of John F. Banzhaf III, professor of public interest law at George Washington University Law School who filed a “potty parity” complaint.

“The complaint charged that providing luxurious restroom facilities immediately adjacent to the House floor for male members, with no restroom facilities whatsoever for female members, constituted sex discrimination and a denial of equal protection. It also noted that female members had reported missing votes because of this denial,” according to information on his website,
Banzhaf pointed out that the restroom for congressmen – just a few feet off the House floor – has gilt mirrors, a shoeshine, ceiling fan, drinking fountain and television. In sharp contrast, congresswomen seeking similar relief “entails traversing a hall where tourists gather, or entering the minority leader’s office, navigating a corridor that winds past secretarial desks and punching in a keypad code to ensure restricted access.”
Following the formal legal complaint, the architect of the Capitol announced that “options are being considered for adding additional restrooms’ for female members,” Banzhaf said in a news release.
Banzhaf has been dubbed the “Father of Potty Parity” for initiating legal theories under which women could challenge building designs which force them to wait on much longer lines than men.

While they process the paperwork and building permits, pay close attention to scientific research, because if you thought you got rid of any evidence of wrong doing when you flushed, think again. Researchers can now give an entire community a drug test using samples of wastewater from a city’s sewer plant, according to Science Netlinks website.
The test couldn’t be used to arrest a single person as a drug user. But, it would help federal law enforcement and other agencies track the spread of dangerous drugs, like methamphetamines, across the country.
Oregon State University scientists tested 10 unidentified American cities for remnants of drugs from wastewater streams. They were able to show that they could get a good snapshot of what people consume. An early result of the new study showed significant differences in methamphetamine use from city to city. One urban area with a gambling industry had meth levels more than five times higher than other cities while methamphetamine levels were virtually nonexistent in some smaller Midwestern locales, said Jennifer Field, the lead researcher and a professor of environmental toxicology at Oregon State.
The science behind the testing is simple. Nearly every drug — legal and illicit — that people take leaves the body. That waste goes into toilets and then into wastewater treatment plants.
In the study one teaspoon of untreated sewage water from each of the cities was tested for 15 different drugs. More specific tests could be made with samples taken from discharge pipes from a specific neighborhood or house.
In China, no one took samples, but they did need a solution for porcelain problems according to e-mail from an American teacher in China.
When international visitors visited the school of architecture and offered to help somewhere, the school’s administrator asked the interpreter to tell the guests that the bathrooms never worked, toilets continually leaked and the fumes are ever present. So, if the visitors really wanted to help, the administrator said, they should bring some new ideas for bathrooms.
No report on the visitors’ response. Perhaps there is no need for it: the Chinese have developed their own solution: “the Toilet Hospital Truck.” The THT travels from neighborhood to neighborhood, parking near a complex of apartments, waiting for folks to ask for help with their bathrooms. The teacher’s e-mail included a photo of the truck sporting a huge picture of a commode on its side and a list of services provided. No calls and long waits for a plumber, “they work in all the apartments in that area then move to another area,” the teacher reported.
Not a perfect answer, just a functioning one, and that’s essentially what every congresswoman wants.
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at