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Bill Gates sets sights on toilets, sanitation

MelindBill Gates

Melinda and Bill Gates

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Updated: July 20, 2011 2:14AM

SEATTLE — Bill Gates is turning his penchant for cutting-edge invention on the most unglamorous of devices: the toilet.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched a program Tuesday aimed at “reinventing the toilet,” and providing $42 million in grants to create and test new approaches to improve sanitation in the developing world. The projects were announced at a conference in Rwanda.

The sanitation revolution, which started in the 18th century, “has saved more lives than any innovation in the history of public health or medical science,” said Frank Rijsberman, director of the foundation’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene initiative.

But that transformation reached only one-third of the world, and the problem has only grown worse.

About 40 percent of people still have no access to safe, sanitary toilets, and 1 billion practice open defecation, according to the World Health Organization.

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