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China decides to grade its stinky restrooms

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By USA Today
Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 9:09 p.m.

BEIJING — Want a job? In China you can apply to become a “stink assessor” for the country's notoriously noxious public restrooms.

Applicants for such a position should be younger than 30, have no history of nasal disease and avoid tobacco, pungent food and drink before and during the assessment, the country's ministry of health announced last week.

Wang Gang, who is 50 and a heavy smoker, was ready to offer an opinion about a neighborhood restroom. He classified the facility as hitting the fourth and worst stench level — “intense foul smell” — on draft standards for restrooms nationwide.

The rules —issued on Thursday for public feedback before they are enforced — specify the number of flies permitted: three per square meter in a stand-alone toilet and just one per square meter in a toilet room inside another building. As for maggots — zero tolerance.

Communist authorities value statistics, and the classification and precise targets attracted ridicule on Friday online in China, along with disbelief that the standards could be enforced. But there is little doubt they are needed.

Despite clear improvement in Beijing's facilities for the 2008 Olympics, Wang's local restroom has two holes in the ground without a partition, and there are no wash basins.

“It's better than before, but the bathroom is very over-used as there are few in this neighborhood, so it's very smelly,” said Wang in Lishi Hutong, an alley of one-story structures in Beijing's historic heart, where many families lack their own bathrooms.

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