Get To Know Your Water Quality- Pathogens



The term “pathogen” is used to describe a parasite or infectious agent that causes disease



What are they?

The term pathogen is used to describe a parasite or infectious agent that causes disease. Diseases caused by organisms in humans are known as pathogenic diseases. Pathogenic microorganisms are most commonly transmitted in contaminated fresh water. Infection commonly results during bathing, washing, drinking, in the preparation of food, or the consumption of infected food.

How Are Pathogens Harmful?

According to the EPA these pathogens pose a special health risk or infants, young children, elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

 

Common Pathogens found in Tap Water:

  • Coliforms

Source— Coliforms are bacteria that are naturally present in the environment and indicate that other potentially harmful bacteria like E. coli may be present.

  • Cryptosporidium

Source—Human or Animal Fecal Waste

Symptoms—Gastrointestinal illness (diarrhea, vomiting, cramps)

  • Fecal coliform and E.coli

Source— Human or Animal Fecal Waste

Symptoms— Gastrointestinal illness (diarrhea, vomiting, cramps) or headaches

  • Giardia Lambia

Source—Human and animal fecal waste

Symptoms—Gastrointestinal illness (diarrhea, vomiting, cramps)

  • Legionella

Source— Contaminated water: the organism thrives in warm aquatic environments.

Symptoms—Legionnaires’ disease has severe symptoms such as fever, chills, pneumonia (with cough that sometimes produces sputum-a mucus that is coughed up from the lower airways), ataxia, anorexia, muscle aches, malaise or “out of sorts” and occasionally diarrhea and vomiting.

  • Viruses

Source—Human and animal fecal waste

Symptoms—Short term—Gastrointestinal illness (diarrhea, vomiting, cramps). Some of the diseases that are caused by viral pathogens include:

  • Influenza
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Chickenpox
  • Smallpox
  • Ebola
  • Rubella.

Wikipedia provides a list 31 potential waterborne pathogens along with the source and symptoms associated with them.

How do I get them out of my Water?

Treatment to eliminate water-borne microbes is by (POE) point of entry or (POU) point of use UV (ultra-violet light) eradication or RO (Reverse Osmosis) purification technologies. The Trionics ECO-UV made by Sterilight™ is a reliable, economical and chemical-free way to destroy chlorine-resistant pathogens and many other water-borne microbes.

What About the EPA and My Water Provider?

For the most part, today’s water treatment facilities are much the same as they were at the turn of the century. Since the early 1900’s Municipalities primary water treatment techniques for killing pathogens in tap water detailed utilizing chlorine to disinfect drinking water, thus reducing the incidence of waterborne diseases, such as dysentery, typhoid and cholera.

Over time as our understanding of microbial contaminants has improved. Scientists and health professionals have found that a wide range of microorganisms such as parasites/protozoa, bacteria, and viruses may persist in “potable” or what is classified by the EPA as “safe” drinking water.

While chlorine is fairly effective for disinfection of bacteria and viruses it does not provide complete disinfection against parasites such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia. Cryptosporidium parasites are protected by outer shells that allow them to survive for long periods of time and make them very resistant to disinfectants such as chlorine and chloramine. Over the past 20 years, Cryptosporidium has become recognized as one of the most common causes of waterborne disease (recreational water and drinking water) in humans in the United States.

According to the EPA, the very young, very old and those with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk. In addition water providers are switching to Chloramine (chlorine and ammonia) in order to reduce cancer-causing THM disinfection by-products. However, Chloramine effectiveness as a germicide comes with a warning by the World Health Organization. WHO states that Chloramine is 2,000X to 100,000X less effective at killing water-borne microbes than free chlorine. Yes, you read that right. These days we have the “super bugs” which are much more complex. They resist conventional water treatment and in some cases may increase the surviving organism’s resistance to antibiotics. Utilizing Chloramines as a Disinfectant is not recommended by the World Health Organization.

The fact remains that at any time water can change and become contaminated with harmful pathogens.

For a full Explanation of the EPA regulations regarding Pathogens and water-borne microbes see EPA ‘s Official Report –Water on Tap. What you need to Know.

 

About the author: Aric Huckstep