Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
When we hear water pollution, we tend to think of oil tankers and petroleum, of toxic chemicals pouring into rivers and lakes from factories, or of garbage waste or sewage dumping at sea. These are all obvious sources of water pollution with harmful effects Ð but many threats to the water supply are often viewed as only being harmful to the ecosystem.
We need to be equally as cognizant of potential harm to humans, because water pollution can have far reaching and life-altering negative consequences for you and your children. Now, during the summertime season, with waterside vacations planned for families everywhere, it's important to understand how water pollution's long-term effects can impact your children even with limited interface.
What to know about contamination
The principal contaminants of water include toxic chemicals, nutrients and biodegradable organics, and bacterial and viral pathogens. Primarily, as humans, we face the hazards of ocean pollution indirectly. Water pollution can threaten human health when pollutants enter the body via skin exposure or through the direct consumption of contaminated food or drinking water. Bacteria and viral pathogens can pose a public health risk for those who drink contaminated water, swim in polluted water, or eat raw shellfish from polluted bodies of water.
Effects on human health
The contamination of ground water, rivers, lakes, wetlands, estuaries, and oceans can threaten the health of humans in a myriad of ways. Some of the effects include:
¥ Increased incidence of tumors and/or ulcers.
¥ Increased incidence of skin irritation, rashes, or long term skin disorders.
¥ Increased incidence of constipation, diarrhea, and infections to intestine.
¥ Dangerous effects on growing fetus in pregnant women.
¥ Still births and/or spontaneous abortions.
¥ Birth of deformed children, developmental deficits in children, and neurologic symptoms.
¥ 'Blue baby' disease caused by methane globinemiaÐwhich results in asphyxia (reduced O2 supply).
¥ Reduced activity of immune system.
¥ Loss of memory power and reduced mental sharpness.
¥ Water-borne diseases like jaundice, hepatitis, gastroenteritis will be more prevalent
¥ Reduced bone development and muscular development.
¥ Reduced male fertility.
¥ Shifts in physiological cycles of human body.
¥ Medical waste found in the ocean may result in swimmers having a chance of developing Hepatitis or AIDS.
What can you do?
Prevention of water pollution of nearby rivers, lakes, groundwater, and drinking water can be alleviated by following some simple guidelines:
¥ Conserve water by turning off the tap when running water is not necessary. This helps prevent water shortages and reduces the amount of contaminated water that needs treatment.
¥ Be careful about what you throw down your sink or toilet. Don't throw paints, oils or other forms of litter down the drain.
¥ Use environmentally friendly household products.
¥ Do not overuse pesticides and fertilizers, preventing runoffs into nearby water sources. Use natural options as much as possible.
¥ Don't throw litter into rivers, lakes, or oceans. Help clean up any litter you see on beaches or in rivers and lakes as long as it is safe to do so.
¥ Be aware of your children's time in bodies of water; teach them not to purposefully drink water and immediately contact your child's physician if you see anything out of the ordinary in your child's behavior after being exposed to water (changes in their diet, a fever, a rash, etc.).
Water pollution, and its catastrophic potential results, can be stopped by watching what pollution we are letting into all bodies of water. The more diligent we are, then the greater the likelihood of a smaller amount of very harmful materials in our water resources, thereby keeping us all a little bit safer.
Don Keenan, the founder of Keenan's Kids Foundation, is the author of the child safety book 365 Ways to Keep Kids Safe, which is available at