Study Links Tainted Tap Water To Millions Of Illnesses

Studies have linked contaminated tap water to millions of illnesses. In one of the largest studies of its kind into illnesses and public water supplies, one government-funded study found that people are becoming ill from their drinking water, said WebMD.

Pipes may be introducing viruses linked to more than one million stomach illnesses annually, according to two studies. “This is a really big deal,” Jeffrey Griffiths, MD, MPH&TM, a professor at Tufts University and chair of the drinking water committee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) science advisory board, told WebMD. “This research is very important….. Our delivery pipe system is old in many parts of the country and leaky and not being replaced.” Griffiths was not involved in the research, but said the science “really documents that it’s possible for people to get viruses that make them sick through their drinking water.”

Meanwhile, according to researcher Frank Loge, an environmental engineer at the University of California at Davis, “The drinking water that we have in the U.S. is very, very good relative to other countries.” Loge did tell WebMD that, “But in terms of what we expect from our drinking water, in terms of health and safety, I was alarmed.”

The project looked at 14 public Wisconsin water systems that were similar to over 147,000 other U.S. towns in which the communities pumped their public water from underground pools called aquifers, WebMD explained. Like most groundwater-reliant communities, the 14 studied did not disinfect the water after it left the wells. For the first year, eight communities installed powerful ultraviolet (UV) lights to clean the water when it left the underground pool; the other six had no disinfection program in place, said WebMD.

Water was sampled monthly from the wells, from an area just past the UV disinfection, and from six to eight home taps. In the second year, the towns swapped and the eight towns utilizing IV disinfection turned that process over to the six that did not, said WebMC. Scientists compared the UV systems’ ability to clean water. After two years, the researchers concluded that no community had consistently clean or consistently contaminated water. Looking at risk, the researchers found that, nationwide, tainted drinking water could be at the root of about 1.1 million cases of acute stomach illness every year—a rate 559 times higher than what the EPA says is acceptable for public drinking water supplies.

We recently wrote that a new report blamed tattoo ink—not needles or unsanitary conditions—for skin infection outbreaks in Rochester, New York. The common bacteria, linked to a tattoo artist who wore gloves and sterilized equipment, involved ink or water used to dilute the ink. Over the past year, 22 case have been confirmed and another 30 cases have been suspected in similar skin infections across the country, health officials said. A bacterial relative of tuberculosis: Mycobacterium chelonae, which can lead to itchy and painful pus-filled blisters, can linger for months and the treatment involves very strong antibiotics and a host of side effects. The bacteria are typically seen in tap water, and have been previously seen when tattoo artists utilized tainted water to lighten dark ink, a process called “gray wash,” generally used in shaded tattoo areas. Manufacturers of gray wash sometimes use distilled water to lighten ink, wrongly believing the water is clear of dangerous contaminants.

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