What's That Floating in Your Water?
WebMD News Archive
For those whose water source is a private well, "we
recommend having the water tested. If levels are above 50 parts per billion,
you might consider using bottled water or changing the depth to be deeper or
shallower." And though it will clear your water of many other contaminants,
says Wilkins, "filtering will not remove arsenic."
In the second study, Valerie Garrett, MD, and colleagues with
the CDC's Foodborne and Diarrheal Disease Branch were called in to track down
the cause of a salmonella outbreak among infants in the southern Appalachian
region, in the southeastern U.S.
The team eventually tracked the problem to a batch of bottled
water processed at a large plant in North Georgia and marketed specifically for
infant use. While the source of the contamination has not been proved beyond a
doubt, Garrett says that local cave-dwelling salamanders are the likely
culprits. These animals shed bacteria into local springs, and the plant in
question had stored the processed water for bottling in the same tanks that had
held spring water.
Most people who drink bottled water do so precisely because
they think it's cleaner than tap water. But according to Garrett, "just
because it comes in a bottle doesn't mean it's safe."
So how likely are you to be sickened by your next swig?
Fortunately, not very.
"For your typical consumer, bottled water is probably quite
safe," says Garrett. But those who can't fight off infection -- people
undergoing chemotherapy or with advanced AIDs, the very old, and the very young
-- "have to understand that bottled water is not sterile. They are at
particular risk [of serious illness] from contamination of any water product,
bottled or not," she tells WebMD.
Given that, says Garrett, those at high risk "might want to
consider drinking chlorinated water or a water product that has a biologically
active disinfectant in it."
If you're wondering where you might find such an exotic product
-- consider your kitchen sink.
"Tap water [from a U.S. municipal source] has biologically
active chlorine in it at the time of consumption. There is something actively
killing bacteria as you put it in your mouth," Says Garrett.