Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions

Supplying Safe Drinking Water: New analysis of drinking water-related gastrointestinal illness

November 26, 2012

Water faucet
New analysis of drinking water-related
gastrointestinal illness

Credit: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Thinkstock

Summary

The distribution system piping in U.S. public water
systems that rely on non-disinfected well water or
“ground water” may be a largely unrecognized
cause of up to 1.1 million annual cases of acute
gastrointestinal illness (AGI), involving nausea,
vomiting and diarrhea, scientists are reporting
Their study in ACS’ journal Environmental Science
& Technology
concludes that such illnesses may
become more of a problem as much of the
nation’s drinking water supply system continues
to age and deteriorate.

Today’s episode describes a study finding that the distribution system piping in U.S. public water systems that rely on non-disinfected well water or “ground water” may be a largely unrecognized cause of up to 1.1 million annual cases of acute gastrointestinal illness (AGI). That illness involves nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

The study is the topic of a report in the journal, Environmental Science & Technology.

Frank J. Loge and colleagues explain that more than 100 million people in the United States rely on water piped into homes, schools and businesses from public water systems that get their water from wells, rather than lakes, rivers and other above-ground sources. Much of that water either is not disinfected at all or is not adequately disinfected to kill disease-causing viruses.

“In our new analysis of the risk of AGI from these well-based water supply systems, we found that contamination of distribution system piping may be responsible for 470,000 to 1.1 million cases of AGI every year. In addition, the incidence of AGI from public water systems is likely to rise in coming years.”

So far, insufficient financial investments have been made to improve water infrastructure, and small systems are particularly at risk for lack of funds and personnel, according to the researchers.

“As most of the national water distribution infrastructure is reaching the end of its design life in the coming decades, the frequency and health impacts of distribution system deficiencies will likely worsen.”

Smart Chemists/Innovative Thinking

Smart chemists. Innovative thinking. That’s the key to solving global challenges of the 21st Century. Please check out more of our full-length podcasts on wide-ranging issues facing chemistry and science, such as promoting public health, developing new fuels and confronting climate change, at www.acs.org/GlobalChallenges Today’s podcast was written by Michael Bernstein. I’m Adam Dylewski at the American Chemical Society in Washington.