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Three Medical Doctors wrote the book, The Water We Drink: Water Quality and Its Effects on Health. Their names are Joshua I. Barzilay, M.D., Winkler G. Weinberg, M.D., and J. William Eley, M.D. In order to put the issue of drinking water quality and its effects on health into perspective, the book is divided into three parts. It first reviews the history of water, disease, and sanitation. The next section deals with health issues. At the conclusion of the book are chapters regarding bottled water and methods of purification. The intent of the book is to educate consumers.
In the ancient world there was an awareness of the need for sanitation and for water that was safe for consumption. Efforts at keeping water pure, maintaining access to waters of high quality, and providing sewage disposal were widely practiced. With the diminish of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the middle ages, these practices were largely forgotten, and infectious illnesses became common. Only with the ascendancy of the scientific method and discoveries in the last one hundred years has the connection between water quality, sanitation, and health once again been discovered.
The discovery that diseases were infectious and transmissible through water
served as a reason to the development of methods of water purification. In 1887 the first water filtration system was established in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Sand was the
filtering medium. Within a short time the incidence of typhoid fever dropped enormously.
In 1974 Congress enacted the Safe Drinking Water Act. It set up government oversight, through the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, of surface and ground-water sources. “The EPA set up two types of regulations: (1) mandatory, enforceable maximum contaminant levels (MCLs), to be set as close to the recommended health-based goals and (2) non-mandatory, health-based maximum contaminant level goals (MCLGs).” The chemicals and contaminants to be regulated were: microbiological contaminants, metals and inorganic chemicals, volatile organic chemicals, organic compounds, and radionuclides.
Despite the accomplishments, water-borne diseases remain an issue of concern. “From 1971 to 1988 there were 564 infectious outbreaks in the United States involving nearly 140,000 people.” Bacteria are microorganisms that are of the kingdom Prokaryotae. When certain bacteria appear in places where they do not normally reside, they can cause illness.
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