NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Water Borne Illness A Public Health Concern

November 10, 2000

Poor drinking water quality is a major problem in many parts of mainland Europe, even in the more affluent nations, researchers reported at a World Health Organization meeting in Budapest.

  • According to WHO statistics, some 20 million people worldwide die each year of waterborne diseases -- one million of them in Europe.
  • While new technologies help control and monitor water safety, they can create new hazards; in Germany, for example, studies have shown increasing amounts of drugs and other substances -- such as sex hormones from contraceptives, pain killers, anticonvulsants and cholesterol lowering drugs -- are present in drinking water.
  • New pathogens have emerged as major concerns for industrialized countries, such as Cryptosporidium, a coccidial protozoan parasite now recognized as a common cause of diarrhea, one of the major killers in the world, according to researchers.

Chemical contaminants with cumulative toxic properties are also a concern to public health experts in Europe, such as lead from water pipes, nitrates and pesticides from agricultural and livestock operations, and natural contaminants such as arsenic and fluoride.

Source: Carl Kovac, "Waterborne diseases threaten industrialized countries," British Medical Journal, November 11, 2000.


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