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Three Illnesses Caused By Contaminated Water

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While it may seem that water-borne illnesses only happen in underdeveloped countries, this simply isn't the case. Even with some of the most advanced water treatment methods and facilities in the world, contaminated water is still an issue in the United States. According to one study, 63 million Americans were exposed to unsafe drinking water within the last 10 years. Water contamination happens for a number of reasons, including bacteria making its way through leaky pipes and pollutants getting dumped in the water by construction companies and other industries.

No matter how it happens, water contamination can have an adverse effect on one's health. Here are three illnesses caused by contaminated water.

Giardia Infection

Also known as giardiasis, this illness is caused by a microscopic parasite called Giardia, which can be found in water that has been contaminated by feces from infected animals or humans. When ingested, these tiny parasites reside in the intestines. Some of the most common symptoms associated with this illness include:

  • Watery, foul-smelling diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps and bloating
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss

Besides ingesting contaminated food or water, giardiasis can also be transmitted from person to person contact with someone who has the parasite. In 2012 there were over 15,000 giardiasis cases reported in the United States.


Another type of infection, norovirus causes inflammation in the stomach and intestines and is usually referred to as gastroenteritis. Norovirus is highly contagious and can be spread when contaminated water is used during the food preparation process. Common symptoms associated with norovirus include:

  • Abdominal pain or cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Loose diarrhea
  • Muscle pain

Norovirus can also spread when a person is in close contact with others who have it. Considered the most common cause of vomiting and diarrhea, there are up to 21 million cases of norovirus each year in the United States.

Fluoride Toxicity

Most water treatment facilities add fluoride to their water, which is believed to help improve oral health and reduce the number of cavities, especially in children. In recent years however, there has been a push for water treatment plants to either reduce the amount of fluoride in the water or leave it out altogether.

When someone gets too much fluoride, it can become dangerous and cause fluoride toxicity. Some of the most common symptoms of this condition include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps

Besides water, fluoride is found in most brands of toothpaste. According to the CDC, excess fluoride is one of the top 10 water-related diseases in the country. Each year, over 20,000 cases of fluoride poisonings gets reported to the Poison Control Center in the United States.