Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – July 14th, 2006

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

July 14, 2006

Water Purifying Sachet Inventors Awarded Top Honor

Procter & Gamble (P&G) scientists Philip Frank Souter and Colin Ure have been awarded the Intellectual Property Owners (IPO) Education Foundation’s “2006 National Inventor of the Year” honor for their efforts that led to the design and development of PuR® Purifier of Water sachets. Each small PuR® sachet is capable of purifying 10 liters of water, pulling impurities, organic matter, heavy metals, spores and other contaminants out of non-potable water.

Estimates are that 500 million liters of safe drinking water have been provided in the last two and a half years due to the use of PuR®

The P&G researchers used flocculants – agents that promote molecular aggregation and can cause particles to amass in clumps – combined with large-particle calcium hypochlorite (powdered chlorine bleach) to create the point-of-use water-purifying product. Point-of-use treatments such as PuR® became of interest to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 1991 after a cholera outbreak in Peru spread rapidly throughout Latin America. A dependence on unsafe drinking water lead to the epidemic.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as many as 2 billion people worldwide drink water drawn from shallow wells or polluted lakes and rivers. In addition the global health agency estimates that 1.6 million children die each year because of diarrheal diseases, many of which could be prevented by safe drinking water.

EPA Plans to Tighten Rules on Lead in Drinking Water

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced proposed changes to the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWR) for lead and copper. The proposed revisions are designed to strengthen the implementation of the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) in areas including monitoring, water treatment processes, customer awareness and lead service line replacement. According to EPA, the measures will further reduce potential exposure to lead in drinking water, improving public health protection especially for infants and small children

Introduced in 1991, the LCR requires water utilities to reduce lead contamination by controlling the corrosiveness of water and replace lead service lines used to carry water from the street to the home, as needed.

Commonly used in traditional household plumbing materials, lead can enter household tap water through the corrosion of water service lines and aging plumbing items such as solder and metallic fixtures. EPA reports that while homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead materials, newer homes are also at risk. According to the agency, even plumbing items labeled “lead-free” may contain up to 8 percent lead. The most common areas of concern are brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures that can leach significant amounts of lead into the water, especially hot water.

Lead exposure has been shown to produce adverse health effects, particularly in infants and small children. EPA reports lead in drinking water can result in delayed physical and mental development, including attention span deficits and learning disabilities. In adults, lead exposure may cause increases in blood pressure, while prolonged exposure can contribute to the development of kidney problems.

For more information about the EPA’s proposed revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule, please go to:
http://www.epa.gov/safewater/lcrmr/index.html#2006

WHO Study Shows Heavy Health Toll From Environmental Exposure

TThe World Health Organization (WHO) has released a global research study reporting that as much as 24% of all global disease is caused by environmental exposures. The report also shows that environmental factors are responsible for one-third of all diseases in children under the age of five.

WHO’s Preventing Disease Through Healthy Environments – Towards an Estimate of the Environmental Burden of Disease is a comprehensive study on how preventable environmental hazards contribute to a wide range of diseases and injuries. The report details the health impacts of environmental risks across more than 80 diseases and injuries, and surveys more than 100 experts worldwide. Included is the finding that more than 40% of deaths from malaria and approximately 94% of deaths from diarrheal diseases, two leading cause of death in children globally, can be prevented through better environmental management.

The WHO report details diseases responsible for the largest total annual health burden from environmental factors in terms of death, illness and disability, or Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALY). DALY is the sum of years of potential life lost due to premature mortality and the years of productive life lost due to disability. Diseases with a high DALY rating include:

* Diarrhea: Largely from unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene
* Lower respiratory infections: From air pollution, both indoor and outdoor.
* Malaria: The result of poor water resource, housing and land use management that fails to curb vector populations.

According to the study, measures are available to reduce this environmental disease burden in several areas. Included is the promotion of safe household water storage and better personal hygiene measure. WHO also advises the use of cleaner fuels and safer, more economical use and management of toxic substances in the home and workplace

To read the WHO report, Preventing Disease Through Healthy Environments, please visit:
http://www.who.int/quantifying_ehimpacts/publications/preventingdisease/en/index.html.
EPA Grants Near $1 Billion for Drinking Water Programs

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that more than $940 million from three agency grant programs will be shared between U.S. states, territories and tribes to enhance the quality and security of the nation’s drinking water. The largest grant, totaling more than $837 million, will be used to support Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (DWSRF) programs, financing infrastructure improvements to public water systems and upgrading treatment facilities, storage facilities and distribution systems.

Since 1998, the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) has required EPA to allot grant funding based on each state’s proportional share of the total needs reported in the most recent Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey. The act also provides funding for the monitoring of unregulated contaminants affecting Indian tribes and Alaskan native villages and grants to U.S. territories including the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the District of Columbia.

A second grant of $98 million will fund the Public Water Supervision System (PWSS). Operating under the SDWA, PWSS provides resources for implementation and enforcement of drinking water regulations and programs. Objectives of the PWSS program include developing and maintaining an inventory of public water systems throughout the state, conducting sanitary surveys of public water systems and developing and maintaining a database to hold compliance information on public water systems.

The final grant, totaling $5 million, is earmarked for water system counter-terrorism support. States and territories use funds obtained under these grants for coordination activities for critical water infrastructure protection. Activities include ensuring the quality of drinking water, utility vulnerability assessments and developing and overseeing emergency response and recovery plans.

For more information on programs funded by the EPA grants, please visit the following Web sites:

* Drinking Water State Revolving Fund: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/dwsrf/allotments/
* Public Water Supervision System: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/pws/grants/
* Counter-terrorism funding: 2006 EPA Water Security Grant Memo

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