Scientists are reporting dramatic new real-world evidence supporting the idea that hand washing can prevent the spread of water-borne disease. It appears in a new study showing a connection between faecal bacteria contamination on hands, faecal contamination of stored drinking water, and health in households in a developing country in Africa. The study is in ACS' Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.
Alexandria Boehm, Jenna Davis, and their students note that almost half of the world's population - over 3 billion people - have no access to municipal drinking water supply systems. They obtain drinking water wells, springs, and other sources, and store it in jugs and other containers in their homes. Past research showed that this stored water can have higher levels of bacterial contamination than its source. But nobody knew why.
The scientists found a strong link between faecal contamination on the hands of household residents and bacterial contamination in stored water in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Stored water contained nearly 100 times more faecal bacteria than the source where it was collected. "The results suggest that reducing faecal contamination on hands should be investigated as a strategy for improving stored drinking water quality and health among households using non-networked water supplies," the report notes.
Source: American Chemical Society