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Health-based drinking water violations: A human body systems framework to understanding human health impacts.

Authors: Yolanda McDonald*, Vanderbilt University, Emily Murray, University of Missouri, Nicole E. Jones, University of Florida, Elaine L Hill, University of Rochester Medical Center
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Medical and Health Geography, Applied Geography
Keywords: Safe Drinking Water Act, Drinking water contaminants, health
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The public health impact of contaminated water in the United States is largely unknown outside of colossal failures in water treatment, aging infrastructure, and extreme weather events. The predominant health-based approach to assessing outcomes associated with drinking water is to diagnosis a specific illness (e.g. water-borne disease) associated with a contaminant. This clinical approach is influenced by the US public health law, the Safe Drinking Water Act, which is designed to regulate single contaminant exposure and health. We posit that this diagnosis approach method is flawed because the human body experiences multiple contaminants simultaneously when exposed to contaminated drinking water. We used a novel approach to investigate how multiple contaminants in the public drinking water supply can potentially affect human body systems as opposed to focusing on specific illnesses, which is the typical approach. We examined health-based violations in the US drinking water (2011-2015) supply and mapped contaminants regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act to each human body system affected. We found that the top three systems taxed by multiple contaminants were the digestive, lymphatic, and renal. This novel approach has the potential to reimagine and shape how the relationship between human health and drinking water.

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