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Water: the hidden risks

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We drink it, wash with it and rely on it to grow our food – but under certain circumstances, it can be a major risk our health. Water may be life-sustaining, but if you’re not careful with the supplies in your home, it can be life-threatening. Here, we take a look at some of the hidden risks associated with this crucial resource. 

Contamination 

One of the dangers to be aware of is contamination. Even when it looks and smells fine, water can be harbouring health hazards. For example, Legionella bacteria can multiply within plumbing systems. When people breathe in droplets of water contaminated with this bacteria, they can develop Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially serious infection of the lungs. Legionella bacteria exist in usually harmless numbers in rivers, lake and ponds. However, if they get into plumbing and air conditioning systems, they can reproduce at a rapid rate and build up to dangerous levels. The risk is especially high if water is stored between 20°C and 45°C and if impurities such as limescale or algae are present within systems. 

To minimise the risk of Legionella outbreaks, it’s important to keep your plumbing system free of impurities and to ensure that water keeps on moving and doesn’t stagnate. Also, make sure that water is stored at temperatures below 20°C or above 60°C. You can fit thermostatic mixing valves (TMVs) in your plumbing system to guarantee that water comes out of your taps or showers at a suitable temperature. As water solution specialists Arrow Valves point out, TMVs are designed to blend hot and cold water together to provide warm water for applications like baths, showers and wash basins.    

Of course, it’s not just Legionella bacteria that you have to watch out for in water. A whole range of hazards can infect water supplies. For example, this summer 300,000 households in Lancashire were told to boil their drinking water after a microbial parasite was detected in a treatment works. Routine tests carried out by United Utilities discovered traces of cryptosporidium at a plant near Preston. 

Scalds 

The temperature of water can also pose problems. As mentioned earlier, TMVs can prevent water from exceeding safe temperature levels. However, sometimes plumbing systems are not set up properly and problems arise. Young children and the elderly are at the greatest risk of injury from scalding. As well as the pain itself, scalds can lead to further health problems, such as shock, scarring and infection. In some cases, these injuries can even be fatal. Tragically, there have been a number of cases of people losing their lives because they were exposed to dangerously hot water. Earlier this year, a woman died as a result of severe scalding after taking a shower in an Edinburgh hotel. 

To protect your family from scalds, make sure your home is fitted with TMVs and never leave young children or anyone who may be vulnerable unattended in a bath. 

We couldn’t survive without water, but this valuable resource does have its dangers. This is why it’s so important to know the facts when it comes to water and to take steps to prevent accidents or illnesses.

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