previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 next
What if I have special health needs?
People who have HIV/AIDS, are undergoing chemotherapy,
take steroids, or for another reason have a weakened immune
system may be more susceptible to microbial contaminants,
including Cryptosporidium, in drinking water. If you or someone
you know fall into one of these categories, talk to your health
care provider to find out if you need to take special
precautions, such as boiling your water.
Young children are particularly susceptible to the
effects of high levels of certain contaminants, including nitrate
and lead. To avoid exposure to lead, use water from the cold tap
for making baby formula, drinking, and cooking, and let the water
run for a minute or more if the water hasn't been turned on
for six or more hours. If your water supplier alerts you that
your water does not meet EPA's standard for nitrates and you
have children less than six months old, consult your health care
provider. You may want to find an alternate source of water that
contains lower levels of nitrates for your child.
What are the health effects of contaminants in drinking water?
EPA has set standards for more than 80 contaminants that may
occur in drinking water and pose a risk to human health. EPA sets these
standards to protect the health of everybody, including vulnerable groups
like children. The contaminants fall into two groups according to the
health effects that they cause. Your water supplier will alert you through
the media, mail, or other means if there is a potential acute or chronic
health effect from compounds in the drinking water. You may want to contact
the supplier for additional information specific to your area.
Acute effects occur within hours or days of the time
that a person consumes a contaminant. People can suffer acute health effects
from almost any contaminant if they are exposed to extraordinarily high
levels (as in the case of a spill). In drinking water, microbes, such
as bacteria and viruses, are the contaminants with the greatest chance
of reaching levels high enough to cause acute health effects. Most people's
bodies can fight off these microbial contaminants the way they fight off
germs, and these acute contaminants typically don't have permanent effects.
Nonetheless, when high enough levels occur, they can make people ill,
and can be dangerous or deadly for a person whose immune system is already
weak due to HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy, steroid use, or another reason.
Chronic effects occur after people consume a
contaminant at levels over EPA's safety standards for many years. The drinking water contaminants that can have chronic effects are
chemicals (such as disinfection by-products, solvents, and pesticides),
radionuclides (such as radium), and minerals (such as arsenic). Examples of the chronic effects of drinking water contaminants are cancer,
liver or kidney problems, or reproductive difficulties.
For more information