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Page last updated at 01:32 GMT, Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Britons' toilet pastimes revealed

Flushing toilet
The survey was carried out to coincide with World Toilet Day

Reading, chatting and texting are among the favourite activities of Britons on the toilet, according to a survey.

The study suggests more than 14 million people in the UK read newspapers, books and magazines on the loo.

The poll points to eight million people talking - either on the phone or to family - and one in five send texts.

The survey of more than 2,000 people was commissioned by charity Tearfund for World Toilet Day, which aims to highlight poor sanitary conditions.

The study also suggested people mostly thought about food while on the toilet, and that men were more likely than women to look around for a distraction.

Poor hygiene

Mari Williams, Tearfund's water and sanitation policy adviser, said: "It's scandalous that in the 21st Century, more than 2.5 billion people living in the developing world do not have a clean, safe place to go to the toilet, and almost 900 million people do not have access to clean water - something we take for granted in the UK."

Mike Foster, water and sanitation minister at the Department for International Development (DFID), such figures reinforced the need to give people access to sanitation around the world.

Last month, the DFID announced an increased effort to build toilets for more than 50 million people in developing countries over the next five years.

Meanwhile, the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has warned that poor hygiene is responsible for spreading toilet germs quickly.

It says separate research suggests almost half of British adults fail to dry their hands after using a public toilet, and one in six admit that they do not wash their hands every time.

RSPH chief executive Professor Richard Parish said: "We know hand washing and drying could prevent up to half of all acute respiratory infections in this country and this, in turn, could save up to 80m on annual GP consultations. Hand washing is even more effective at preventing acute gastro-intestinal infections."

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