Waterborne Diseases: Threats to Health and How They are Addressed

Waterborne DiseasesIn many areas of the world, particularly in developing countries, clean and safe water remains a scarce and incredibly valuable resource. Even in the U.S., where water supplies are clean and safe, contamination still happens. Waterborne microorganisms are the culprit behind deadly diseases, such as Hepatitis A and E. coli.

Areas where waterborne diseases run rampant typically do not have technologically advanced treatment facilities to provide people with clean drinking water. As Ashtuck.com explains, clarifier skimmers and clearing facilities are absent. Even if you boil the water, you are not assured of the clear liquid devoid of contaminants.

The World Health Organization outlines the common water-related diseases; these are not limited to drinking. Here are three of them:

  • Diseases that are caused by the micro-organisms and chemicals that people ingest with their drinking water.
  • Schistosomiasis or bilharzia, which is caused by parasitic worms that live in some freshwater snails. When the worms, known as blood flukes, exit the snails, they contaminate the water. They can enter humans via the skin. This deadly disease is not common in the U.S.
  • Malaria, a life-threatening disease of the blood caused by parasites. The Anopheles mosquito is the carrier of these parasites, which rapidly multiply in a bitten human’s liver and soon attack the red blood cells. There is no vaccine for malaria as of yet. This is common in remote areas of Africa, Asia, and some parts of Latin America.

Apart from the most common water treatment steps utilized in many communities — such as coagulation and flocculation, filtration, sedimentation — there are also different steps for disinfecting water. With disinfection, pathogenic micro-organisms are either destroyed or deactivated. Ozone, chlorine, and chlorine dioxide are only three of the most common treatments for disinfecting water.

In some areas where the water has too much dissolved calcium and magnesium ions, water “softeners” are used to neutralize the “hardness” of the water. Hard water is believed to cause several health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and reproductive failure. There are others, however, who oppose this possibility.