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FYI:Tap Water May Cause Illness in Elderly NEW YORK, Jan 25 (Reuters Health) -- Even where drinkingwater standards meet state and federal standards, the elderlymay be at increased risk for waterborne gastrointestinalinfections from tap water, results of a recent study suggest.Since hospitalizations and mortality associated withgastrointestinal illness is particularly high among this group,the findings could have significant social and economicimplications in the coming years, the authors write in theJournal of Epidemiology and Community Health."Given the slow aging of the entire US population and thedisproportionate burden of gastrointestinal disease in theelderly population, these costs can be expected to rise,"conclude Dr. Joel Schwartz of the Harvard School of PublicHealth in Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues.Their study looked at the association between water quality andhospitalizations due to gastrointestinal illness amongPhiladelphia residents aged 65 years and older in the period1992 - 1993. According to the investigators, the city's watersystem met guidelines set by the US Environmental ProtectionAgency (EPA) throughout the study period.Still, "elderly residents of Philadelphia remain at risk ofwaterborne gastrointestinal illness under current watertreatment practices." The researchers note that other studieshave found an association between gastrointestinal disease anddrinking water elsewhere in the US and Canada."Disinfected drinking water in Western countries may still be asource of infectious gastrointestinal illness," Schwartz andcolleagues write.They examined Medicare records of Philadelphia residentsbetween 1992 and 1993, as well as daily water exposuremeasures. Records suggested a correlation between waterquality and gastrointestinal illness 9 to 11 days prior to thehospital admission.In an area serviced by one particular treatment plant, theassociation occurred after 4 to 6 days. Associations in all areaswere stronger among patients over age 75 years, the studyfound.Water quality was assessed by turbidity -- or the level ofcloudiness of the water -- as determined by the EPA. Turbidityis used to gauge risk of microbial contamination and assess theeffectiveness of the treatment of public drinking water.However, disease-causing microorganisms are only a smallfraction of the particles that can cause water to turn cloudy.Therefore, turbidity can only indicate -- not measure -- the truequality of water.In an accompanying editorial, researchers from Spain note thata more comprehensive public health surveillance strategy isneeded to control water quality and reduce the risk ofwaterborne gastrointestinal disease.Such a system could include greater surveillance for cases ofdiarrhea and vomiting, particularly among high-risk groups likethe elderly; standardization of laboratory detection; designatingparticular disorders as reportable to federal bureaus; andinvestigating and controlling waterborne outbreaks.Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2000;54:3-5,45-51.------------------ http://webpotential.com/ericibs/index.htm
 
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