Health Threats from Exposure to Contaminated Water

You’ve probably seen the ads alerting people to a lawsuit involving contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. And while we don’t want to downplay the seriousness of what some people may have been exposed to at this military base, the reality is that contaminated water is a very common problem. It can cause serious illness in some and even be fatal, depending on the contaminants. Here are some things you need to know.

In this post we’ll cover the dangers of contaminated water other than household tap water. Exposure may involve things such as swimming or even wading in water that is polluted. Or perhaps you’ve eaten fish or shellfish taken from contaminated waters. Each year we see reports of people dying from infections developed as a result of swimming in recreational waters contaminated with certain bacteria. Generally government oversight of beaches and waterfronts will result in posting of unsafe notices when waters have been found to be polluted with dangerous organisms.

The most commonly-occuring one is toxic algae bloom, or blue-green algae. Intestinal issues such as nausea and diarrhea often result, but you may see skin or mucous membrane irritations. In the case of blue-green algae, it can cause neurological and liver problems and may result in death. It’s also very deadly to dogs.

Typical toxic algae bloom

We cannot stress this enough: If you believe you have been exposed to toxic algae, seek medical help IMMEDIATELY

Other problems may result from water that is contaminated with fecal matter. Human and animal feces can carry a whole host of organisms that can be life-threatening. Swimming in waters adjacent to agricultural property where livestock are raised isn’t recommended. Water runoff can carry animal waste into nearby ponds or rivers. While fast-moving waters may dissipate contaminants, beware of swimming in slow-moving or still waters. Those stagnant waters are often breeding grounds for harmful bacteria.

Recreational waters are often also contaminated after severe flooding. Sewers may overflow and household waste can be carried into nearby waters. You may even get it in your home should flooding seep in. Avoid contact with flood waters; wear protective gear if it’s necessary.

As a Pacific Northwest biohazard remediation and cleanup company, at times we are called in to deal with contaminated water, such as flooding. Our cleanup technicians are trained in proper removal of polluted waters as well as decontamination of the affected areas.

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