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Giesler, Richard; Scheer, Peter (ed.) / Wisconsin engineer
Volume 79, Number 3 (December 1974/January 1975)

Johnson, Don
Don't drink the water: it may be hazardous to your health,   pp. 5-[13]


Page 5


III  l
Vol. 79
No. 3
DON'T DRINK THE WATER:
It May Be Hazardous To Your Health
In ancient times the individual's daily water
requirements for all purposes may have
averaged three to five gallons. In today's in-
dustrialized world, however, as much as 70
gallons of water per capita are needed every
day. In this article the WISCONSIN
ENGINEER looks at the quality of those 70
gallons that Americans cook with, wash with,
bathe in, and drink each day.
by Don Johnson
of the Engineer Staff
In 1969, three carcinogenic chem
icals, known to cause cancer
in animal experiments, were found
in New Orleans drinking water
after it had passed through the
citv's largest water - treatment
plant. The plant supplies more
than 110 million gallons of water
a day to 600,000 people. This
might explain the results of a
survey from a quarter of a century
ago that showed New Orleans to
have the third - highest rate for
kidnev cancers and the sixth-
highest rate for cancer of the
bladder and urinary tract among
163 metropolitan areas.
  "This difference suggests that
an environmental factor may be
responsible for the higher in-
cidence in New Orleans" notes Dr.
Lucia J. Dunham of the National
Cancer Institute. "Contamination
of the drinking water is an obvious
potential source for such a factor."
  In the days when man had
nothing more to fear from his
water than bacterial infection, the
problems of adequate treatment
were simpler, although primitive.
               5
But even then, treatment was
never preventive, but rather
curative-nothing was done unless
people began dying; or the water
developed a foul odor, a strange
taste, and an ugly tint.
EPIDEMICS OF typhoid,
cholera, dysentery, and other
waterborne bacterial infections,
caused deaths traceable to drink-
ing water. This forced the es-
tablishment of community water
supplies between the Civil War
and World War I. These water
systems did prevent yesterday's
health hazards. But today, many
of these overage and substandard
facilities are still in use.
Writing in a Consumer Reports
series on drinking water stan-
dards, Dr. Robert H. Harris, of the
Environmental Defense Fund, and
science writer Edward M. Brecher,
report: "Water supply systems
are primitive, and they are typi-
cally staffed by people trained in
an outmoded tradition or not
trained at all. As the level of pollu-
tion has risen in our sources of raw
water, the techniques employed to
make that polluted water safe for
     December 1974, January 1975


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