Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – September 13th, 2002

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

September 13, 2002

Johannesburg Summit Calls for Increased Global Water Access and Sanitation

At the recently completed World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, world leaders announced a recommitment to the goals outlined in the 1999 United Nations Millennium Summit to halve the number of people without access to fresh water or adequate sanitation by 2015. “For the first time, the world has made the issues of water and sanitation a high-level political priority,” said the Summit Secretary-General Nitin Desai. “We need this political commitment, and now we need the practical measures and partnerships to ensure that the new goals are met.” The U.S. has already committed more than $500 million in international aid and in support of public-private partnerships to improve access to water and sanitation in developing nations. According to the World Health Organization, 3.4 million people around the world die from water-related illnesses each year. Approximately 1.1 billion people across the globe do not have access to adequate drinking water.

For more information about the WSSD’s focus on safe water, please visit: ( PDF)

Water Groups Urge Office of Homeland Security to Oversee Vulnerability Assessments

Five national water groups, including the American Water Works Association, are urging U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to ensure that the White House Office of Homeland Security oversees the handling of the approximately 8,000 water system vulnerability assessments (VAs) that will be completed over the next few months by water utilities. In compliance with the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, each municipality serving over 3,300 customers must complete a VA to evaluate its security against possible terrorist acts and develop emergency response plans. According to an August 29th letter to Administrator Whitman, the water groups express great concern that “the inadvertent disclosure of these extremely sensitive documents could wind up, intentionally or inadvertently, in the hands of malicious people.” The EPA has been tasked with developing protocols for protecting the security of the vulnerability assessments.

For more information, please visit:

EPA Reviewing Health Risks of Drinking Water Distribution Systems

Nine white papers recently released by the EPA provide a review of available data on potential health risks in drinking water distribution systems and identify areas where additional research may be necessary. The papers serve as the basis for a series of meetings designed to comply with the 1989 Total Coliform Rule. The rule requires utilities to monitor the presence of coliforms in their distribution systems on a regular basis. The EPA is conducting meetings with a variety of drinking water experts to draw attention to the recent data on potential health risks. Further meetings will be held with stakeholders to determine high-priority regulatory needs.

For more information, please visit:

Significant New Dietary Guidelines Released

A sweeping report just released by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) alters previous recommendations for daily fat intake, advises restricting foods with added sugar, and urges more fiber intake. In addition, the report, called the Dietary Reference Intakes, provides the first recommended daily allowances for carbohydrates and polyunsaturated fats, and echoes previous warnings about consumption of saturated fats and dietary cholesterol. Government estimates indicate that more than half of the U.S. population is overweight or obese, resulting is approximately 300,000 deaths per year and billions of dollars in health care costs. The epidemic of obesity among adults and children prompted the NAS to recommend that Americans achieve 60 minutes per day of moderate exercise – twice the level previously recommended in 1996.

For more information about the report, please visit:

Dengue Fever on the Rise, Cases Reported in U.S.

The World Health Organization is reporting that Dengue Fever, a severe mosquito-borne illness, is spreading beyond the tropics of Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America into Brazil and now into the U.S. Experts are seeing a rise in the number of Dengue cases – approximately 50 million cases worldwide each year. Potentially a result of increased urbanization and the buildup of open-air sewage and water collection, the mosquitoes carrying Dengue breed in still water, are commonly found in cities, and are active during the day. There is no preventive medication or cure for the disease and the earliest vaccine will not be available for an estimated five to ten years. Dengue fever often causes severe pain in the muscles and joints, flu-like symptoms, vomiting, and rashes. A more dangerous form of the disease, Dengue hemorrhagic fever, causes some victims to bleed from body openings and pores and can be fatal.

For more information about Dengue fever, please visit:

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.

Subscribe to receive the weekly "Water Quality & Health Council Perspectives"