How Safe Is Your Water?

There are many types of pollutants that can contaminate drinking water and cause illness and disease. Regardless of where drinking water comes from – a lake, a river, an underground aquifer, a well, a public water utility, even bottled water – all can be contaminated by a number of impurities.

Some of these contaminants include chemicals like pesticides, heavy metals such as arsenic and lead, human and animal waste, and even chemical by-products created during drinking water treatment. Exposure to these contaminants can cause a number of health problems, ranging from nausea and stomach pain to developmental problems and cancer.

Health Effects of Drinking Water Contamination:

Exposure to microbes in water can lead to nausea, fevers, diarrhea and dehydration.  Long-term exposure can cause rashes, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and a number of immune, neurological, developmental, and reproductive problems.

Because of the different types and levels of pollutants in U.S. waters, it is very difficult to observe accurately the rate of disease from contamination in water.  However, it has been estimated that approximately 900,000 people fall ill and as many as 900 die each year from waterborne infectious disease.  It is equally difficult to measure the adverse health impact of waterborne chemicals because of the long lag between exposure and symptoms, the multiple ways chemicals can enter the body, and the mobility of populations.

While everyone is at risk for health problems because of drinking water contamination, the level of risk varies from person to person and depends on a number of factors. These include: the specific contaminant(s) to which an individual is exposed; the size of the dose; demographic characteristics; pre-existing health conditions; lifestyle choices including smoking and diet; and the effects of exposure to multiple chemicals.  Pregnant women are particularly susceptible to exposure, as are infants and children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.

Simple Tips To Avoid Contaminated Water

•  Don’t drink water straight from lakes, rivers, streams, or springs.

•  Because you cannot be sure if your tap water is safe, you may wish to avoid tap water, including water or ice from a refrigerator ice-maker, which is made with tap water. Always check with the local health department and water utility to see if they have issued any special notices for people with HIV about tap water.

•  You may also wish to boil or filter your water, or to drink bottled water. Processed carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles should be safe, but drinks made at a fountain might not be because they are made with tap water. If you choose to boil or filter your water or to drink only bottled water, do this all the time.

•  Boiling is the best way to kill germs in your water.

•    Heat your water at a rolling boil for 1 minute.

•    After the boiled water cools, put it in a clean bottle or pitcher with a lid and store it in the refrigerator.

•    Use the water for drinking, cooking, or making ice.

•    Water bottles and ice trays should be cleaned with soap and water before use.

•    Don’t touch the inside of them after cleaning. If you can, clean your water bottles and ice trays yourself.

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