Health & Water

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  • How safe is my drinking water
  • Water’s roll in my body?
  • Hydration fact
  • Drinking Water Standards
  • Water Pollution
  • Water born diseases
  • Filtered water benefits

Information on healthy water lifestyle

How safe is my drinking water

As development in our modern society increases, there are growing numbers of threats that could contaminate drinking water. Suburban sprawl has encroached upon once-pristine watersheds, bringing with it all of the by-products of our modern life style. Actual events of serious drinking water contamination occur infrequently, and typically not at levels posing near-term health concern. Nonetheless, with the threats of such events increasing, we cannot take drinking water safety for granted. Greater vigilance by you, your water supplier, and your government is vital to ensure that such events do not occur in your water supply.

Microbiological and chemical contaminants can enter water supplies. These materials can be the result of human activity or can be found in nature.

For instance, chemicals can migrate from disposal sites and contaminate sources of drinking water. Animal wastes and pesticides may be carried to lakes and streams by rainfall runoff or snow melt. Human wastes may be discharged to receiving waters that ultimately flow to water bodies used for drinking water. Coliform bacteria from human and animal wastes may be found in drinking water if the water is not properly treated or disinfected. These bacteria are used as indicators that other harmful organisms may be in the water.

The potential for health problems from drinking water is illustrated by localized outbreaks of water-borne disease. Many of these outbreaks have been linked to contamination by bacteria or viruses, probably from human or animal waste. In 1993 and 1994, for example, there were 30 reported disease outbreaks associated with drinking water, 23 associated with public drinking water supplies and 7 with private wells. Certain pathogens, such as Cryptosporidium, may pass through water treatment filtration and disinfection processes in sufficient numbers to cause health problems. Cryptosporidium is a protozoa that causes the gastrointestinal disease Cryptosporidiosis. The most serious, and sometimes deadly, consequences of Cryptosporidiosis tend to be focused among sensitive members of the population, such as individuals with immune system deficiencies.

The highest number of outbreaks (28) in India in 2011 was those of Diarrhoea, followed by Gastroenteritis (25), infective Hepatitis (12), Typhoid (4) and Cholera (6), states the health department’s report. As many as 4,052 people suffered an attack of these diseases during the outbreaks.

Among the 14 deaths due to water-borne diseases, six died due to gastro that occurred in Kolhapur (1), Sangli (2), Parbhani (1), Nanded (1), and Washim (1). One Diarrhoea death occurred in Nandurbar. Infective hepatitis claimed one life each in Satara, Sangli and Nanded. Typhoid claimed two lives in Nanded. Two cholera deaths occurred in Pune and Thane, the report states. In 2010, the highest number of outbreaks in Maharashtra was of gastro (177) in which 71 people died. Diarrhoea claimed 19 lives.

A 1993 outbreak of Cryptosporidiosis in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is the largest outbreak of waterborne disease in the United States. Lake Michigan is the source of Milwaukees water, which is treated by filtration and disinfection. Due to an unusual combination of circumstances during a period of heavy rainfall and runoff the treatment plant was ineffective, resulting in an increase in the turbidity of the treated water. Increased turbidity can be, and was in this case, an indicator of higher levels of Cryptosporidium. Over 400,000 persons were affected by the disease, more than 4,000 were hospitalized, and over 50 deaths (some counts are as high as 100) have been attributed to the disease. The original source of contamination is uncertain.

Nitrate in drinking water at levels above the national standard poses an immediate threat to young children. Excessive levels can result in a condition known as “blue baby syndrome.” If untreated, the condition could be fatal.

What can I do to protect my drinking water?

Make sure that you know the water quality standards and testing frequency of your region. Keep apprised of potential threats by reading your state’s Source Water Assessment report, available annually online. Additionally, attend meetings held by local government officials on water quality testing and standards. These events can be invaluable in helping you learn more about how to keep your family safe. If you have a private well, testing kits and services are available to help you analyze the contents of your water and determine if steps need to be taken.

Water’s roll in my body?

Water helps nearly every part of the human body function efficiently. Considering that our bodies are almost two-thirds water, it is important to understand water’s role in healthy lifestyles. The following are just some of the things water does in the body:

  • Brain is 75% water / Moderate dehydration can cause headaches and dizziness
  • Water is required for breathing
  • Regulates body temperature
  • Carries nutrients and oxygen to all cells in the body
  • Blood is 92% water
  • Moistens oxygen for breathing
  • Protects and cushions vital organs
  • Helps to convert food into energy
  • Helps body absorb nutrients
  • Removes waste
  • Bones are 22% water
  • Muscles are 75% water
  • Cushions joints

Information on healthy water lifestyle

Hydration fact

  • 75% of the body is made up of water
  • 80% of the brain is made up of water
  • 75% of the muscles are made up of water
  • 92% of the blood is made up of water
  • Water carries nutrients and oxygen to all cells in the body
  • Water helps convert food into energy
  • Water regulates body temperature
  • 1% dehydration results in thirst
  • There is a 10% decrease in your mental performance when you feel thirsty
  • 2% dehydration reduces your ability to work
  • 4% dehydration results in lethargy, apathy and mental symptoms
  • If you are dehydrated you are more likely to have trouble concentrating, be more irritable and have more headaches
  • Long-term effects of being dehydrated include kidney and urinary tract infections, constipation, continence problems, and kidney stones.
  • Drinking more water helps reduce obesity and bed-wetting in children
  • If you are well hydrated, exercise feels more and more enjoyable.

How much should you drink?

Recommended quantities of water for school age children range from 50 oz for a five-year old to 60 oz for a ten-year old. The minimum fluid intake recommended for adults or children over 100 pounds is your weight divided by 2 (100 pounds = 50 oz of water)

When should you drink?

Drink often throughout the day. You do not feel thirsty until you are 1% dehydrated and your ability to concentrate will already be affected. The clearer your urine, the more hydrated you are. If you notice your urine is darker, drink more water.

You should drink more if you have been sweating or if you are playing sports.

What should you drink?

Water is the best source of hydration for your body. Soda pop is not a healthy choice for hydration and it will actually make you dehydrate faster so it is very detrimental if you are playing sports. Sports drinks are good if you have been playing in sports or exercising for more than 40 minutes. Milk and juice are healthy as part of your diet, but they also contain calories, which should be considered to maintain a healthy weight.

Information on healthy water lifestyle

Drinking Water Standards

World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines

The WHO guidelines include the following recommended limits on naturally occurring constituents that may have direct adverse health impact.

  • Arsenic 0.010mg/l
  • Barium 10μg/l
  • Boron 2400μg/l
  • Chromium 50μg/l
  • Fluoride 1500μg/l
  • Selenium 40μg/l
  • Uranium 30μg/l

For man-made pollutants potentially occurring in drinking water, the following standards have been proposed:

  • Cadmium 3μg/l
  • Mercury 6μg/l For inorganic mercury

Organic species:

  • Benzene 10μg/l
  • Carbon tetrachloride 4μg/l
  • 1,2-Dichlorobenzene 1000μg/l
  • 1,4-Dichlorobenzene 300μg/l
  • 1,2-Dichloroethane 30μg/l
  • 1,2-Dichloroethene 50μg/l
  • Dichloromethane 20μg/l
  • Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate 8 μg/l
  • 1,4-Dioxane 50μg/l
  • Edetic acid 600μg/l
  • Ethylbenzene 300 μg/l
  • Hexachlorobutadiene 0.6 μg/l
  • Nitrilotriacetic acid 200μg/l
  • Pentachlorophenol 9μg/l
  • Styrene 20μg/l
  • Tetrachloroethene 40μg/l
  • Toluene 700μg/l
  • Trichloroethene 20μg/l
  • Xylenes 500μg/l
Parameter WHO EuropeanUnion United States
Acrylamide 0.10 μg/l
Arsenic 10μg/l 10μg/l 10μg/l
Antimony ns 5.0 μg/l 6.0 μg/l
Barium 700μg/l ns 2 mg/L
Benzene 10μg/l 1.0μg/l 5 μg/l
Benzo(a)pyrene 0.010 μg/l 0.2 μg/l
Boron 2.4mg/l 1,0 mg/l
Bromate 10 μg/l 10 μg/l
Cadmium 3 μg/l 5 μg/l 5 μg/l
Chromium 50μg/l 50 μg/l 0.1 mg/L
Copper 2.0 mg/l TT
Cyanide 50 μg/l 0.2 mg/L
1,2-dichloroethane 3.0 μg/l 5 μg/l
Epichlorohydrin 0.10 μg/l
Fluoride 1.5 mg/l 1.5 mg/l 4 mg/l
Lead 10 μg/l 15 μg/l
Mercury 6 μg/l 1 μg/l 2 μg/l
Nickel 20 μg/l
Nitrate 50 mg/l 50 mg/l 10 mg/L (as N)
Nitrite 0.50 mg/l 1 mg/L (as N)
Pesticides(individual) 0.10 μg/ l
Pesticides — Total 0.50 μg/l
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons 0.10 μg/l
Selenium 40 μg/l 10 μg/l 50 μg/l
Tetrachloroethene and Trichloroethene 40μg/l 10 μg/l

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Water Pollution

When toxic substances enter lakes, streams, rivers, oceans, and other water bodies, they get dissolved or lie suspended in water or get deposited on the bed. This results in the pollution of water whereby the quality of the water deteriorates, affecting aquatic ecosystems. Pollutants can also seep down and affect the groundwater deposits.

Water pollution has many sources. The most polluting of them are the city sewage and industrial waste discharged into the rivers. The facilities to treat waste water are not adequate in any city in India. Presently, only about 10% of the waste water generated is treated; the rest is discharged as it is into our water bodies. Due to this, pollutants enter groundwater, rivers and other water bodies. Such water, which ultimately ends up in our households, is often highly contaminated and carries disease-causing microbes. Agricultural run-off, or the water from the fields that drains into rivers, is another major water pollutant as it contains fertilizers and pesticides.

Domestic sewage

Domestic sewage refers to waste water that is discarded from households. Also referred to as sanitary sewage, such water contains a wide variety of dissolved and suspended impurities.

Biochemical oxygen demand, or BOD

The amount of organic material that can rot in the sewage is measured by the biochemical oxygen demand. BOD is the amount of oxygen required by micro-organisms to decompose the organic substances in sewage. Therefore, the more organic material there is in the sewage, the higher the BOD. It is among the most important parameters for the design and operation of sewage treatment plants. BOD levels of industrial sewage may be many times that of domestic sewage. Dissolved oxygen is an important factor that determines the quality of water in lakes and rivers. The higher the concentration of dissolved oxygen, the better the water quality. When sewage enters a lake or stream, micro-organisms begin to decompose the organic materials. Oxygen is consumed as micro-organisms use it in their metabolism. This can quickly deplete the available oxygen in the water. When the dissolved oxygen levels drop too low, many aquatic species perish. In fact, if the oxygen level drops to zero, the water will become septic. When organic compounds decompose without oxygen, it gives rise to the undesirable odours usually associated with septic or putrid conditions.

It amounts to a very small fraction of the sewage by weight. But it is large by volume and contains impurities such as organic materials and plant nutrients that tend to rot. The main organic materials are food and vegetable waste, plant nutrients come from chemical soaps, washing powders, etc. Domestic sewage is also very likely to contain disease-causing microbes. Thus, disposal of domestic waste water is a significant technical problem. Sewage generated from the urban areas in India has multiplied manifold since 1947.

Today, many people dump their garbage into streams, lakes, rivers, and seas, thus making water bodies the final resting place of cans, bottles, plastics, and other household products. The various substances that we use for keeping our houses clean add to water pollution as they contain harmful chemicals. In the past, people mostly used soaps made from animal and vegetable fat for all types of washing. But most of today’s cleaning products are synthetic detergents and come from the petrochemical industry. Most detergents and washing powders contain phosphates, which are used to soften the water among other things. These and other chemicals contained in washing powders affect the health of all forms of life in the water.

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Water born diseases

The following table lists some common waterborne illnesses with their symptoms, causes, and incubation period.

Disease Pathogen Symptoms Causes Incubation
Adenovirus Infection Adenoviridae virus Vary depending on which part of the body is infected Drinking contaminated water 5-8 days
Amoebiasis Entamoeba Histolytica parasite Diarrhoea, stomach pain, and stomach cramping Fecal matter of an infected person (usually ingested from a pool or an infected water supply) 2 to 4 weeks
Campylobacteriosis Campylobacter jejuni bacteria Chicken, unpasteurized milk, water 2 to 10 days
Cholera Vibrio Cholerae bacteria Watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps Contaminated drinking water, rivers and coastal waters Two hours to 5 days
E. Coli 0157:H7 Escherichia Coli bacteria Diarrhoea (may be bloody), abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, HUS Under-cooked ground beef, imported cheeses, unpasteurized milk or juice, cider, alfalfa sprouts 1 to 8 days
Giardiasis Giardia Lamblia parasite Diarrhoea, excess gas, stomach or abdominal cramps, and upset stomach or nausea Swallowing recreational water contaminated with Giardia 1 to 2 weeks
Hepatitis A Hepatitis A virus Fever, fatigue, stomach pain, nausea, dark urine, jaundice Ready-to-eat foods, fruit and juice, milk products, shell fish, salads, vegetables, sandwiches, 28 days

Please refer to the CDC’s Alphabetical Index of Water-related Diseases, Contaminants, & Injuries for a more comprehensive list of waterborne pathogens.

Water-related diseases


Methaemoglobinaemia caused by the decreased ability of blood to carry vital oxygen around the body. One of the most common causes is nitrate in drinking water. It is most important in bottle fed infants and water from wells in rural areas is of special concern. Controlling nitrate levels in drinking water sources to below around 50mg/litre is an effective preventive measure.

The disease and how it affects people

Methaemoglobinemia is characterized by reduced ability of the blood to carry oxygen because of reduced levels of normal haemoglobin. It is uncommon. Infants are most often affected, and may seem healthy, but show signs of blueness around the mouth, hands, and feet, hence the common name “blue baby syndrome”. These children may also have trouble breathing as well as vomiting and diarrhoea. In extreme cases, there is marked lethargy, an increase in the production of saliva, loss of consciousness and seizures. Some cases may be fatal.
In the body nitrates are converted to nitrites. The nitrites react with haemoglobin in the red blood cells to form methaemoglobin, affecting the blood’s ability to carry enough oxygen to the cells of the body. Bottle-fed infants less than three months of age are particularly at risk. The heamoglobin of infants is more susceptible and the condition is made worse by gastrointestinal infection. Older people may also be at risk because of decreased gastric acid secretion.
Malnutrition and infection seem to increase the risk of methaemoglobinaemia (McDonald and Kay, 1988). The general health of the infant as well as Vitamin C intake may determine whether or not the condition develops (Super et al, 1981).
Others at risk for developing Methaemoglobinaemia include: adults with a hereditary predisposition, people with peptic ulcers or chronic gastritis, as well as dialysis patients.

The cause

The most common cause of Methaemoglobinemia is high levels of nitrates in drinking-water. High nitrate levels may be present in drinking-water due to the use of manure and fertilizers on agricultural land. The natural level of nitrites and nitrates from the environment is normally a few milligrams per litre, although high levels may occur naturally in some areas. Intense farming practice may increase this to more than 50 mg/litre (WHO 1998). Levels greater than 50mg/litre are known to have been associated with Methaemoglobinaemia in bottle fed infants. Nitrate is also found in vegetables. Methaemoglobinaemia can also be a side effect of some drugs (phenacetin and sulphonamides), although this is very rare with modern drugs.

Scope of the Problem

Methaemoglobinaemia is now rare in most of the industrialized countries due to control of Nitrate contamination in water supplies, although occasional cases continue to be reported from rural areas. It is a risk in developing countries, for example where the drinking water is from shallow wells in farming areas.
There is no reliable estimate of the extent of the problem worldwide. WHO is presently collecting information in order to make such an estimate.


Control of nitrate in drinking water is an effective preventive measure. WHO’s Guideline Value for Nitrate in drinking water is 50 mg /litre and for nitrite is 3mg/litre. This is relatively readily achieved in centralised, piped, supplies, but is difficult in rural and small supplies.
The group at greatest risk is bottle fed infants. Breastfeeding protects babies from Methaemoglobinaemia. Boiling water does not remove nitrate.
For severely affected individuals, medical treatment is possible.


McDonald A T, Kay D. Water resources issues and strategies. UK: Longman Scientific and Technical, 1988, p 146-148
Super M, Heese HV , Mackenie D et al. An epidemiological study of well water nitrates in a group of South West African /Namibian infants. Water Research, 1981: 15: 1265-70
World Health Organization. WHO Guidelines for drinking water quality. 2nd edition, addendum to Volume 1: Recommendations. Geneva: WHO, 1998, p-8-10; and addendum to Volume 2: Health Criteria and other Supporting Information.
Prepared for World Water Day 2001. Reviewed by staff and experts from the Programme for Promotion of Chemical Safety (PCS), and the Water, Sanitation and Health unit (WSH), World Health Organization (WHO), Geneva.

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Filtered water benefits

Every living creature on this planet is made up primarily of water. The human body is more than 72% water. If water makes up over two-thirds of our body then naturally the quality of that water is going to have a major impact on our health and well-being. Water is the foundation of our body. Like any structure, if the foundation is of poor quality the expectation of strength and longevity will not be fulfilled.

Ingestion of water borne contaminants is now known to be a major factor in the current epidemics of cancer and heart disease. Both the medical and scientific communities agree that clean water is one of the most essential and fundamental elements to sustained health. Either we can filter out the contaminants prior to consumption or we force our body to be the filter. We live in a world where we have sacrificed the purity of our environment for modern conveniences, and disease and illness are the price we pay. There are currently well over 75,000 different toxic synthetic chemicals used in our society and over 1,000 new ones being introduced each year. We have learnt the hard way that many if not those entire chemicals end up in the water we drink.

Our body has a very effective means of flushing out toxins and water is the key. Detoxification requires an abundant intake of clean, chemical-free water as do all other healing processes that happen inside the body. The more we drink, and the purer the water is, the more we increase our body’s natural ability to flush out harmful toxins.

Until recently most medical theory was based on the assumption that the 20% of our body that is solid tissue is what determined our health, since that is where most outward signs of disease and illness are found. The other 80% (72% water and 8% chemical compounds) that is liquid was thought to merely support the structure of bone and organ tissue. We now know the opposite to be true—the fluids that flow through our body are what create our well-being. The human body is a water machine, designed to run primarily on water and minerals.

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