Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – January 28th, 2002


In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

January 28, 2002

Water Managers Blamed in E. Coli Outbreak

The May 2000 E. Coli outbreak in Walkerton, Ontario ranks as Canada’s worst ever, killing seven and sickening 2,300, according to a report released last week. The Honorable Dennis O’Connor, the Commissioner of the Walkerton Inquiry and a Justice of the Court of Appeal for Ontario, issued a report concluding that proper chlorination could have prevented the outbreak and proper notification of authorities would have stopped the bacteria from spreading. The report implicates local water officials, health officials and the Ministry of Environment. Ontario Premier Mike Harris apologized for the disaster on behalf of the regional government. The O’Connor report concluded that Ontario must design a new water delivery system to prevent a similar tragedy in the future.

To view the full report, visit http://www.walkertoninquiry.com/

Report Released on Disinfection Byproducts

A report released January 8th by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group asserts that certain regions may have increased health risks, including miscarriage, neural tube defects and reduced fetal growth, from tap water chlorination byproducts. Many scientists and researchers dispute the findings released by the two non-governmental organizations. Dr. Anthony Scialli, Director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Georgetown University Medical Center, notes that the evidence linking disinfection byproducts (DBPs) to miscarriage is “very unconvincing.” A spokesperson for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said, “The EPA agrees that the presence of disinfection byproducts in drinking water is an important public health concern.” However, the agency adds, “The studies cited in the EWG report do not support their argument that there is a link between current levels of exposure to DBPs and an increased risk of adverse reproductive and developmental health effects.”

To read the full EWG report, visit http://ewg.org/reports/ConsiderTheSource/index.html. To read a related fact sheet from the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, visit http://www.wssc.dst.md.us/info/ewg_response.html.

Cryptosporidium Standards Strengthened for Small Drinking Water Systems

On January 14th, the EPA announced a final rule requiring small drinking water systems to install improved filter technology to control cryptosporidium and other microbial contaminants. For those smaller drinking water systems that serve fewer than 10,000 people, this final rule has the same protective requirements already in place for large systems under the Long-Term 1 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule (LT1ESWTR). The rule requires 99 percent removal of Cryptosporidium through enhanced filtration. The estimated 11,000 systems affected by the rule will have three years to comply with the turbidity and monitoring requirements. The EPA notes that technical and financial assistance is available to states and utilities, estimating that the annual cost of the rule to be $39.5 million and the average annual household cost to be $6.24.

To learn more about the LT1ESWTR, visit http://www.epa.gov/safewater/mdbp/lt1eswtr.html

Congress Approves Health Tracking Pilot Program

The final 2002 Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations bill passed by the U.S. Congress includes $17.5 million in funding for a national health tracking system. The pilot program – designed to investigate cancer “clusters” in the U.S. – was strongly advocated by Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, after fifteen children in Fallon, NV were diagnosed with leukemia. According to Senator Reid, the $17.5 million secured will be used to develop health tracking pilot programs in various states throughout the nation. Reid intends to use the pilot programs to develop legislation establishing a Nationwide Health Tracking Network “to identify and track other clusters and their environmental factors.”

To view Senator Reid’s statement, visit http://www.senate.gov/~reid/record2.cfm?id=180145

Bed Nets Treated with Permethrin Reduce Malaria Transmission in Equatorial Africa

Researchers from the Kenya Medical Research Institute and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently completed a two-year study concluding that the use of bed nets treated with permethrin could save many lives, even in areas with intense, year-round malaria transmission. Although insecticide-impregnated bed nets are known to be effective in reducing malaria in non-equatorial African regions, researchers were skeptical about their effectiveness in equatorial Africa, where a person typically receives hundreds of bites from infected mosquitoes each year. However, researchers reported that the use of nets treated with the chlorine compound permethrin in this region reduced deaths among children less than one year of age by about 22%. In addition, cases of malaria that occur due to transfer from pregnant women to their fetus declined by approximately 23%, resulting in 28% fewer low-birth-weight babies.

In The News-is a bi-weekly, online service from the Water Quality & Health Council. The publication is updated every other Friday and can be viewed by logging onto www.waterandhealth.org. To receive the publication via e-mail, please click here and enter your e-mail address to join our mailing list.

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