Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – November 8th, 2002

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

November 8, 2002

World Health Organization Releases Top Global Health Hazards

The World Health Report, just released by the World Health Organization (WHO), identifies the principal risks to disease, disability and death across the globe. The top 10 preventable risks identified globally are: childhood and maternal underweight; unsafe sex; high blood pressure; tobacco; alcohol; unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene; high cholesterol; smoke from solid fuels; iron deficiency and obesity. According to the report, life expectancy worldwide can be increased by 5-10 years if governments and individuals make decisions to help combat the major health risks in each region of the globe. According to Dr. Alan Lopez, Ph.D., WHO Senior Science Advisor and co-director of the report, “This report brings out for the first time that 40 per cent of global deaths are due to the 10 biggest risk factors.”

To read more about the report, please visit:

Report Finds U.S. Water Utilities Still Vulnerable to Terrorism

A report recently released by the Council on Foreign Relations finds that the U.S. remains vulnerable to domestic terrorism, despite the multitudes of efforts made since September 11, 2001 to shore up homeland defense systems. Among the findings in “America Still Unprepared – America Still in Danger,” American water systems are susceptible to terrorism in part because routine monitoring is not uniform across all facilities. Water utilities, represented by the American Water Works Association (AWWA), refute the claim that water systems avoid regular monitoring out of fear of legal repercussions. According to AWWA Executive Director Jack Hoffbuhr, the efforts of water utilities conducting vulnerability assessments “should be the example to all infrastructure systems undergoing this process.” An independent task force led by two former senators, Gary Hart (D-CO) and Warren Rudman (R-NH), conducted the study.

To view the report, please visit:

Plain Old Soap and Water – Does It Do the Trick?

A study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) compares the effectiveness of antibacterial soap to regular soap, and finds no scientific evidence of a difference in their ability to kill germs. The results were reported at a recent meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. For the study, primary caretakers in 222 New York City households were randomly assigned antibacterial and regular soaps for daily hand-washing. Microbe cultures were then analyzed, and researchers found a decrease in microbes on both groups’ hands but no difference between the groups. In response, the Soap and Detergent Association along with the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association reiterate the importance of antibacterial soaps in combating dangerous germs, stating, “Antibacterial hand soaps, when properly used, are effective at reducing the risk of infection by killing or controlling the growth of harmful transient microorganisms on the skin, as evidenced in their broad use in healthcare.”

For more information, please visit: and

FDA Issues Guidelines to Blood Industry on West Nile Virus

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued guidance to health officials on protecting the nation’s blood supply against West Nile Virus. The guidelines specifically provide recommendations for the collection and handling of blood from donors, including standards for assessing the risk of infection by the potential donor. According to the FDA, approximately twenty percent of people with the disease develop mild to flu-like symptoms, and screening procedures should already cover many of these potential symptoms among donors. The guidelines also set protocol for handling blood potentially contaminated by the disease. The agency reiterates that donating blood does not put the donor at risk of contracting the disease.

To view the guidance, please visit the FDA’s web site at:

Study finds Salmonella and E.coli Present in Ornamental Water Fountains

Researchers in Mexico have released results of a recent study into the prevalence of disease-causing organisms in ornamental fountains in Guadalajara, Mexico. The findings, reported in the November 2002 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health, verify the presence of Salmonella and E.coli in ornamental fountains such as those commonly found in areas frequented by humans, dogs and birds. The research suggests that contaminated fountains could potentially infect passers-by who unintentionally inhale airborne water droplets produced by the fountains.

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 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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