Water Pathogens – the Serial Killer of Water Contamination

Posted in: Featured, Global Water News, Water Contamination, Water Health Effects
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Photo taken by Chrissy Hunt, March 16th, 2007 – Galway, Ireland (Flickr)

By Stevie. S Georgiou, Staff Writer for Save The Water™ | August 3, 2015

The world’s water supply is contaminated by many microorganisms known as water pathogens, hazardous strains of bacteria that thrive within unclean water conditions. There are several different kinds of water pathogens, and depending on the environmental and ecological conditions surrounding the body of water they inhabit, these pathogens can be very harmful to the human body if ingested.

Types of Pathogens & Symptoms:

Legionella is a harmless bacteria that exists naturally within the ecosystem (1). However, it multiplies rapidly in warm water bodies, such as those found in air conditioning systems, plumbing sites, and housing water tanks. When unfiltered water droplets contaminated by Legionella are inhaled by someone, that individual might experience severe breathing issues, headaches, and muscle cramps. He or she might also be at risk of Pneumonia, Legionnaires Disease, or even Pontiac Fever.
Cryptosporidium is a much more harmful and infectious pathogen. It is usually found in communal swimming pools and natural water springs (1). Cryptosporidium thrives during summer periods where holidaymakers and close relatives enjoy family activities under the sun and in water bodies. This pathogen possesses a stubborn outer shell that can withstand chlorine sterilization for large time periods, making swimming pools a ‘crypto-paradise’ (2). Individuals who have been infected with Cryptosporidium usually face symptoms such as diarrhea, severe abdominal cramps and gastrointestinal indications.
‘Giardia Lamblia’ is another water pathogen which is extremely common within water supply systems around the world. Giardia is a small single-celled micro-organism which is similar to a cyst; and it can be found in unfiltered water that contains traces of animal waste or raw sewage. Countries such as Lesotho, Uganda and Chad experience Giardiasis outbreaks on a regular basis. Even in the United States, Giardiasis infections have become increasingly frequent. This type of bacteria causes a form of water poisoning in those who ingest it; some symptoms of Giardiasis infection include severe diarrhea and headaches (1). These symptoms could also cause infected individuals to be more susceptible to hazardous viruses such as Cholera and E-Coli (3).

Methods of water pathogen control:

Nevertheless, there are many precautions and techniques that can be implemented to reduce the frequency and severity of disease outbreaks caused by water pathogens. For example, the surface water treatment rule (4) ensures that water is regularly filtered and regulated in accordance with established health standards; it is highly effective in minimizing Cryptosporidium infections. Furthermore, fecal indicators are a great way in measuring the amount of toxic human/animal waste within lakes and rivers, thereby lessening the chances of the ingestion of contaminated water. Finally, turbidity (1) regulation is another key practice that can maintain water hygiene. Turbidity is a measure of the relative clarity or cloudiness of water. Water that exceeds established levels of turbidity likely contain dangerous amounts of water pathogens; such water, once identified, can be filtered for greater safety.

Consuming water contaminated by water pathogens can result in major health and societal consequences. However, the measures to prevent this are extremely simple. A combined effort by both the average citizen alongside the government can tackle this issue with ease. Individual and national filtration can limit the amount of dangerous bacteria by a minimum of 50%, especially in terms of Legionella and Giardia. Furthermore, equipment such as fecal indicators can also be used to great effect to aid the prevention of Giardiasis and Gastroenteritis. Save the Water™ strives to improve water science and educate the public about sanitary and sustainable practices. In doing so, we seek to reduce the harm caused by water pathogen infections. For more information on our global projects, visit savethewater.org. Any contributions you can make will go a long way towards supporting our efforts to ensure that people around the world enjoy access to clean and safe water.

 

Sources:
“Basic Information about Pathogens and Indicators in Drinking Water”. United States Environmental Protection Agency, 13 Dec. 2013. Web. 18 July 2015.
“Parasites – Cryptosporidium (also known as “Crypto”)”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2 Apr. 2015. Web. 18 July 2015.
“Infectious Diseases – Pathogens”. ABPI: Resources for Schools, 2015. Web. 18 July 2015.
“Surface Water Treatment Rule”. United States Environmental Protection Agency, 06 Mar. 2012. Web. 18 July 2015
Websites of Sources:
http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/pathogens.cfm
http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/crypto/
http://www.abpischools.org.uk/page/modules/infectiousdiseases_pathogens/pathogens7.cfm?coSiteNavigation_allTopic=1
http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/sdwa/swtr/

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