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Politics Everywhere: Bathrooms (Again)

- July 30, 2010


The Monkey Cage has distinguished itself with its coverage of the bathroom (e.g., here, here, and here). We continue in that tradition with these two stories. First, this distressing news from College Station:

bq. It’s no surprise that universities have been eliminating extras in order to tighten budgets, but getting rid of toilet paper might really stink. Texas A&M University, which is trying to cut $60 million campuswide, hopes to save $82,000 by ceasing to stock the bathroom essential in dormitories.

One student foresees a crime spree:

bq. “It’s going to make people resort to going where there is toilet paper on campus and taking it from there,” Daniel Overstreet, an A&M student, told the local newspaper.

Another student has a novel solution:

bq. “I guess I would just buy my own,” said incoming freshman Mark Silverthorn, adding that it might be a minor inconvenience.

Meanwhile, here in Washington, regulators are cracking down on other bathroom luxuries:

bq. Regulators are going after some of the luxury shower fixtures that took off in the housing boom. Many have multiple nozzles, cost thousands of dollars and emit as many as 12 gallons of water a minute. In May, the DOE stunned the plumbing-products industry when it said it would adopt a strict definition of the term “showerhead” in enforcing standards that have been on the books—but largely unenforced—for nearly 20 years…

bq. …A 1992 federal law says a showerhead can deliver no more than 2.5 gallons per minute at a flowing water pressure of 80 pounds per square inch. For years, the term “showerhead” in federal regulations was understood by many manufacturers to mean a device that directs water onto a bather. Each nozzle in a shower was considered separate and in compliance if it delivered no more than the 2.5-gallon maximum. But in May, the DOE said a “showerhead” may incorporate “one or more sprays, nozzles or openings.” Under the new interpretation, all nozzles would count as a single showerhead and be deemed noncompliant if, taken together, they exceed the 2.5 gallons-a-minute maximum.

Manufacturers foresee an epidemic of poor hygiene among the elderly and high school gym classes:

bq. Manufacturers and retailers say the new rules affect not just upscale systems but also those with hand-held sprays used by the elderly and disabled. Multiple showerheads often found in shower rooms at schools or gyms could also be at risk, manufacturers say. Customers will be disgruntled because of limited product range, they add.

The story also includes this glimpse in the fascinating life of Energy Secretary Steven Chu:

bq. Mr. Chu, a self-described “zealot” for energy efficiency, says he crawls around in his attic in his spare time installing extra insulation.