Author Archives: waterhealthadmin

Life is About Choices and their Inherent Risks, Here’s One: De-Iced Roads or Drinkable Water

Salted Roads

Salt unevenly applied in a Maryland parking lot in winter, 2017

Salting roads, highways and walkways in winter helps prevent injury and save lives by reducing the risk of accidents on icy surfaces. As with everything in life, however, there is no “free lunch.” Everything has a downside; sometimes we have to look for it. As I told my son years ago, when something is “free” (i.e., has no cost), “WATCH OUT.” In this case, the use of salt, as an immediate safety measure on icy roads has a downside that is playing out over the long term. Applying salt on pavement raises the salinity of natural waters, leading to ecological and human health effects;1 it also promotes pipe corrosion. In Flint, Michigan, for example, pipe corrosion from elevated chloride levels contributed to lead leaching into the water supply. And elevated sodium levels in drinking water can be harmful … READ MORE >>

Update: New Zealand’s Largest Drinking Water Outbreak

Drinking Water OutbreakIn August 2016, more than one-third of the 14,000 residents of the community of Havelock North in New Zealand were sickened with gastrointestinal illness after drinking untreated groundwater contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria. It was New Zealand’s largest drinking water outbreak in recorded history. Although accounts vary, the outbreak has been linked to the deaths of up to three persons. Other recent reports have noted that many people, especially the elderly, continue to suffer physically and have not fully recovered from the outbreak.1 The regional cost of the outbreak now exceeds $2.7 million in New Zealand dollars.2 Once the problem was identified and shortly after chlorination was implemented, there were no further cases of Campylobacter enteritis due to water system contamination.

Campylobacter and the Government Inquiry

Initial reports suggested that livestock were the most likely source of the Havelock North Campylobacter—a common food- and waterborne … READ MORE >>

Antimicrobial Resistance: “Nothing in Our Medicine Cabinet…”

Antimicrobial ResistanceA “superbug” infection contracted in a hospital in India killed a Nevada woman in September 2016 as doctors stood by, powerless to intervene with an effective antibiotic drug. The woman in her 70’s had fractured her leg in India, leading to multiple hospitalizations in that country. She returned to the US in early August 2016 and was admitted to an acute care hospital later that month.

The pathogen responsible for the woman’s death, Klebsiella pneumoniae, was found to be resistant to 26 antibiotics. A co-author of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report on the incident noted in a Reno-Gazette-Journal article that the CDC “basically reported that there was nothing in our medicine cabinet to treat this lady.”

A Global Problem

Antibiotic resistant germs are a serious global public health threat. In the US, there are over two million infections and 23,000 deaths caused by antibiotic … READ MORE >>

Your Norovirus Season Survival Guide

Norovirus, the dreaded “stomach flu” or “winter vomiting disease,” is spreading misery far and wide this winter. The Wall Street Journal (January 24) reported on multiple school closures across the US and unhappy households in which family members are falling sick in succession like a line of dominoes.

 

Meet the Virus

Not a flu but a virus, norovirus has been called the “perfect pathogen1” because it is highly contagious and evolves more quickly than humans can develop significant immunity against it. Norovirus spreads through close personal contact with an infected individual; by ingesting contaminated food or water; or by contact with contaminated surfaces. It is the world’s most common cause of gastrointestinal illness, inflicting severe diarrhea or vomiting. Symptoms begin to appear from 12 to 48 hours after becoming infected with the virus and last a few days. Unfortunately, people remain contagious for several days after they feel better. As they resume normal activities, therefore, the lingering “perfect pathogen” may be transmitted easily to new, unsuspecting hosts.

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Indicators of Drinking Water Quality

Providing safe drinking water requires a multi-barrier approach that includes protecting source water from contamination, physically and/or chemically treating (including chlorine disinfection) the raw surface- and groundwater, and storing and delivering the treated water in a manner that prevents re-contamination. Every day, more than a billion glasses of tap water are consumed from over 150,000 public drinking water systems across the US, and it is often taken for granted that the water is safe and wholesome.1

 

Many types of pathogenic (disease-causing) germs can be found in contaminated drinking water, including bacteria, viruses and parasites like Cryptosporidium—the cause of the largest documented waterborne disease outbreak in recent US history.

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Smells like Chlorine?

They say “the nose knows,” but I say the nose can be confused. Chlorine odors are a good example. Several different chlorine odors can arise from various chlorine-based substances and in different circumstances. They are not all simply due to “chlorine.” A prime example is the irritating smell commonly attributed to chlorine around some poorly managed swimming pools. That smell is from a couple of chemical compounds in the chloramine family. Some chloramines form when chlorine disinfectants react chemically with nitrogen-based substances from the bodies of swimmers, including urine. The poolside pronouncement of “too much chlorine in the pool” may be more aptly described as “too much peeing in the pool.” Ironically, the odor could signal that more chlorine is needed in the pool.

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The Secret Life of Bleach

Chlorine bleach – that household staple usually parked in the laundry – has additional uses besides “whitening your whites.”

During cold and flu season, dilute bleach solutions can be used to wipe down frequently touched surfaces to help prevent the spread of viruses and other pathogens (disease-spreading germs) among family members.

Bleach solutions also destroy bacteria, including Salmonella and E. coli, common foodborne pathogens that may lurk on kitchen work surfaces. Used smartly, bleach solutions pack a powerful punch against germs that can make your family sick.

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Go Swimming This Winter!

Looking for a fun way to stay fit this winter? Consider swimming in an indoor pool.  Swimming provides a great workout for the whole body—core (including abdomen), arms, legs, glutes and back, according to WebMD.  It helps increase flexibility and strength without taxing the joints, a welcome advantage for people with arthritis.  And feeling buoyant in the water can be both relaxing and soothing, reducing mental stress.

Indoor Pool Air Quality

One potential deterrent to indoor pool swimming is the strong chemical odor around some indoor pools. We have addressed the phenomenon popularly known as “too much chlorine in the pool” numerous times, but it bears repeating here:  The irritating chemical odor around some pools is not due to chlorine, but to certain substances formed when chlorine disinfectant combines with nitrogen-containing contaminants brought into the pool by swimmers.

To compound matters, inadequate air exchange over the pool contributes to … READ MORE >>

Happy Holidays: A Year in the Life of the Blue Planet

As Perspectives readers gather with family and friends to celebrate the holidays, the Water Quality and Health Council invites you to share a mesmerizing time-lapse view of our home, the Blue Planet, from space.

Hovering in a gravity-neutral zone between Earth and the sun, a million miles over the Blue Planet, the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite recently completed one year of photographing the sun-lit side of Earth and monitoring the weather in deep space.

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A Fun Holiday Hand-washing Activity for Kids

As our families and friends gather to celebrate the holidays, we look forward to enjoying good company, delicious food and exchanging gifts.  One aspect of the holidays we don’t enjoy, however, is exchanging the germ du jour.

Many adults are aware that frequent hand-washing—and hand sanitizer use in a pinch–can help avoid the “re-gifted” germs that cause colds, flu, the stomach bug (norovirus) and more.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tell us that hand-washing is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others, so how can we help the children in our lives practice proper hand hygiene?

The American Cleaning Institute offers a fun resource for children to “Create a colorful holiday!” with its “Clean Your Paws for Santa Claus Coloring Page.”  The image caption clarifies that handwashing “with soap and warm water for 20 … READ MORE >>

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