Don’t Drink the Water!

Widely used water-safety tests are outdated and unable to detect many of the microbes scientists now know can make people sick. Currently, water is tested for the presence of coliforms, organisms once thought to exist only in the intestines of animals, but scientists at Los Angeles meeting of the American Society for Microbiology say the tests can no longer be considered adequate. The tests, developed in the 1950’s, can detect bacteria such as shigella and salmonella, but they miss such microbes as crytosporidium – the parasite that infected Milwaukee’s water supply in 1993 – Norwalk viruses and rotavirus, says Jay Grimes of the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. He and colleagues are urging state and federal agencies to use more sophisticated tests on water. [How many more people have to get sick and die before we get serious about the quality of water?]

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