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Unsafe Drinking Water

Between 15% and 20% of US households including millions of children, especially in rural areas, are at substantial risk from drinking from water supplies drawn from wells which may be contaminated by overflowing, improperly operated septic systems, and chemicals and microorganisms from a variety of other sources. Children have potentially multiple opportunities to drink contaminated water since thousands of schools across the country have been found to use water with unsafe levels of lead, arsenic, pesticides, agricultural chemicals, and many other toxins. There is a serious concern about the mishandling of chemicals within school laboratories.

Wells are implicated in this situation. Supervision of water supplies is spread among numerous local, state, and federal agencies, which leads to confusion and the under-reporting of potential hazards. Older buildings with older plumbing, homes, or schools, show increased levels of lead in the water.

Best Practices for Protecting Drinking Water Supplies

  • • Test a well before purchasing a new home, then on an annual basis or if the well is suspected of becoming contaminated.
  • • Require that all records (well logs) are made available prior to the purchase of the home and that they show that there is a pitless adapter, which has been certified, and the well was properly grouted.
  • • Test a well before purchasing, renting, or leasing an existing home with a well, then on an annual basis, or if the well has been suspected of becoming contaminated.
  • • Test water in vacation homes, camps, etc. for bacteria and chemical contamination before using the water.
  • • Test wells for childcare facilities and schools before use, periodically and if the wells are suspected of becoming contaminated.
  • • Thoroughly decontaminate wells that have been contaminated and then retest them.
  • • If ever in doubt about the safety of a water supply, use bottled water from approved sources for drinking, cooking, and washing of dishes.

Insects, Rodents, and Pesticides

(See Chapter 9, “Insect Control, Rodent Control, and Pesticides”)

Vectors of Disease

Climate change has special disease-related concerns including the creation of potential epidemics of vector-borne disease, which is especially a problem in children. Diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, which are not commonly found in the United States, can increase sharply with increased warming conditions. A good example of this would be the sharp increase in West Nile virus in the United States.

 
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