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      How Safe is Your Drinking Water?  >  Contaminants Resulting from Biological Matter in Water  >  Bacteria and Viruses

Contaminants Resulting from Biological Matter in Water - Bacteria and Viruses

The presence of bacteria and viruses in water and the effects of these microorganisms on the quality of water were noticed very early in the history of city water treatment. Taste and odor in drinking water, the clearest indications of contamination, were attributed to bacterial growth in the water supply (Lingireddy, 2002). City water officials soon noticed that bacterial growth in water affected far more than taste and odor. Contaminated drinking water began to be connected to outbreaks of diseases like cholera and typhoid. These threats were quickly diminished when municipal water systems began chlorinating water in order to kill or inactivate disease-causing pathogens.

Though chlorinated water has helped municipal treatment plants fight against waterborne diseases like cholera, typhoid, and dysentery, it is not the ultimate solution. It is absolutely necessary to maintain chlorine residual in drinking water, in order to prevent the regrowth of bacteria and/or viruses. Ironically, it is this same chlorine residual that leads to bad tasting water and respiratory problems.

Also, chlorine is not entirely effective at inactivating all pathogens. A breakout of disease in 1999, caused by E. coli bacteria, was linked to contaminated drinking water, treated with chlorine. Though this particular strain of bacteria is usually contained in undercooked beef, it can be spread through water, and it is resistant to chlorine. Exposure to E. coli bacteria can lead to severe diarrhea and abdominal cramps, as well as lifelong kidney problems. Gastrointestinal intestinal diseases, like those resulting from exposure to E. coli are frequently caused by contaminated drinking water.

Giardia and Cryptosporidium, two chlorine-resistant microorganisms that also cause serious, waterborne diseases, are discussed in further detail on the next page.

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How Safe is Your Drinking Water?
Introduction - The Value of Drinking Water
Groundwater and Surface Water
Herbicides and Insecticides - History & Occurrence
Herbicides and Insecticides - Specific Chemicals and Health Effects
Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs)
Chlorine Byproducts
Fluoride - Recent Discoveries
Fluoride - Adverse Health Effects
Mercury and Arsenic
Bacteria and Viruses
Human and Animal Feces
Conclusion - The Importance of Drinking Filtered Water
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