While toilets are plentiful in this country, nearly half of the world's population lives without a toilet. Some are forced to use the one toilet in their village; others use the nearest stream or river.

In developing countries 90 percent of sewage is discharged untreated into rivers. So-called "hanging latrines" — a hole in a platform over a river or stream — are common in poor areas in South Asia and South America.

In Haiti, ravaged by an earthquake and now floods, sanitation is so poor people are defecating in plastic bags and tossing them on the roadside or simply squatting in the street. The cholera outbreak that has killed more than 500 and sickened more than 9000 is linked to poor sanitation.

Those harsh realities are not lost on the young artists, some of whom spent hours online researching the worldwide problem before picking up a paint brush.

Working on the project gave Evan DeBassio, 12, a sixth-grader at Gallagher Middle School in Smithfield, a greater appreciation for the loo. "Every year people die because they have polluted water," he says. "I feel really lucky to have what I have, water-wise."

Abigail Lopes, 11, a sixth-grader at Ferri Middle School in Johnston, spray painted her seat aqua blue and drew starfish. Her lid says "Stop Polluting Quick, Don't Make the Water Sick." One family member was so impressed with Abigail's seat, uh, artwork, she wanted it for her bathroom. Abigail isn't ready to let go: "I think I'll keep it for some kind of memory."

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