Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – August 15th, 2003

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

August 15, 2003

Ten West Nile Deaths Reported This Year

As of August 14, 2003, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 10 human deaths and 446 cases of West Nile Virus this year. Colorado has the highest number of cases with 247 and 6 deaths, followed by Texas with 39 cases and 2 deaths, Louisiana with 21 cases and zero deaths, Mississippi with 14 cases and zero deaths and Alabama with 10 cases and 2 deaths. The West Nile Virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and in a small number of cases from transfusions, transplants and from mother-to-child. Typical symptoms include: fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms typically last a few days. For most people, the risk of getting West Nile is low, however there is a greater risk for people who spend much time outdoors. Additionally, people over 50 are at a higher risk of developing a more severe case if they catch West Nile. The best way to avoid West Nile is to wear insect repellant with DEET as well as long sleeves and pants. The percentage of DEET in a product relates to the amount of protection it gives. For instance, a product containing 23.8% DEET provided an average of 5 hours of protection from mosquito bites. A product containing 20% DEET provided almost 4 hours of protection. A product with 6.65% DEET provided almost 2 hours of protection. Products with 4.75% DEET and 2% soybean oil were both able to provide roughly 1 and a half hour of protection. Choose a repellent that provides protection for the amount of time that you will be outdoors. A higher percentage of DEET should be used if you will be outdoors for several hours while a lower percentage of DEET can be used if time outdoors will be limited.

Additional information is available at:

Chlorine Dioxide Inactivates Cryptosporidium parvum

Scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have developed an equation for using chlorine dioxide to control Cryptosporidium parvum in drinking water. Cryptosporidium parvum, a parasite that can cause waterborne disease outbreaks, is resistant to chlorine but can be inactivated more easily by other oxidants such as chlorine dioxide or ozone. Through this study, CxT equation (concentration of disinfectant in mg/L × time in minutes) was created to help drinking water utilities apply chlorine dioxide to control the parasite. Under new EPA regulations, water systems with high levels of the parasite will need to provide additional treatment steps.

R.M. Clark and colleagues published their study in Water Research. For additional information, contact R.M. Clark, 9627 Lansford Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45242.

Meat Labeling Bill Passes in the House

The U.S. House of Representatives recently approved a bill that would exempt meat products from the country-of-origin labels that Congress ordered last year for a variety of foods including fish, fruits and vegetables. Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-TX, who introduced the bill, claims that the labels will cost grocery stores, meatpackers and processors at least $1.9 billion in the first year, based on preliminary Agriculture Department estimates. Consumer groups and others refute the price tag that industry claims the program will cost. According to the Department of Agriculture, 36 percent of lamb, 11 percent of beef and 5 percent of pork is imported. Chicken is not included in the requirement because so little is imported that it barely shows up on the department import tables. Those who favor the labels believe that it is necessary for food safety. Department of Agriculture records show that only 6 percent of imported meat and poultry is currently inspected.

Complete text of the bill that is now in the Senate is available at:|/bss/d108query.html

EPA Inspector General Investigates Water Quality Reporting

The Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general is investigating if the Agency deliberately misled the public by overstating regulatory compliance by the nation’s drinking water systems. According to an August 6, 2003 story in The Washington Post, internal agency documents show that EPA audits for at least five years have suggested that the percentage of the population with drinking water in compliance with all health-based regulations is much lower than what is reported. “States assure EPA that even though not all violations are reported when they should be, the drinking water delivered to the public is safe,” the briefing said. But “given the significant underreporting,” the briefing said, “this conclusion will not likely be accepted by the public, and environmental and consumer organizations.”

A copy of The Washington Post article is available at:

Chlorine Dioxide Gas Used to Kill Bacteria on Fruit

Scientists at Purdue University recently tested different potencies of chlorine dioxide gas – the same sanitizing agent used to rid U.S. office buildings of anthrax – to kill bacteria from apples and other fruits and vegetables. Specifically, the study showed that chlorine dioxide gas, used over various periods of time, could kill all Listeria on apples’ skin and significantly reduce the number of bacteria in the stem cavity and the apples’ bottoms. This decrease was far more than is currently possible with other methods. Chlorine dioxide gas can also be used to reduce the bacteria count before apples are cut up or mashed, which would be advantageous for small juice companies that may not have the pasteurization systems to meet USDA requirements.

More information about the Purdue study is available at:

Bush Picks Utah Governor Leavitt to Head EPA

President Bush has nominated Utah Governor Mike Leavitt to succeed Christie Whitman as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Leavitt has championed the idea of increasing environmental cooperation among federal, state and local officials. The following is an overview of Leavitt’s environmental work from The Salt Lake City Tribune:

* Western Regional Air Partnership: Leavitt was the former co-chairman of this group that brought together states, tribes, environmentalists and industry to discuss the brown haze polluting the air in the national parks, especially the Grand Canyon and the southern Utah parks.
* Nuclear Waste: Leavitt fought against a deal to accept high-level nuclear waste on Indian and state-owned school trust lands.
* Legacy Highway: Leavitt endorsed a highway planned for the eastern shore of the Great Salt Lake that would disturb important wetlands. The 10th Circuit U.S. court of Appeals halted the project, saying the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not pay enough attention to wildlife or look at alternatives before approving it.

The White House’s announcement is available at:

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