• 12 Diseases Caused by Water Pollution

Water/Wastewater

12 Diseases Caused by Water Pollution

Apr 21 2022

By 2050, it’s thought that the global population will reach around 10 billion. That increase will precipitate not only a demand for more resources, but also the production of more waste. Unfortunately, the latter is likely to impact upon the former, as water supplies could become contaminated by chemical, microbial and sewage waste.

The most pronounced effects of this are the contraction of a number of serious diseases, many of which already afflict a significant chunk of the world’s peoples. Given that around a third lack access to clean drinking water, and approximately 10% rely on crops cultivated using poor quality H2O, that’s perhaps unsurprising. But which diseases are the most prevalent among those caused by water pollution?

Bacterial diseases

Faecal contamination of drinking water, or insufficient wastewater treatment processes, are the leading cause of bacterial diseases. The most common among these include:

  • Cholera. This disease takes hold of the digestive tracts and can lead to dehydration and renal failure in the most serious cases, where it can potentially be fatal.
  • Diarrhoea. Abdominal pains, fever, nausea and headaches are the most common symptoms of diarrhoea, although it can cause premature death in especially vulnerable individuals.
  • Salmonellosis. Responsible for inflammation in the intestinal tract, salmonella can result in swift death if not treated appropriately.
  • Shigellosis. Another disease afflicting the digestive tract, shigellosis can damage the intestinal lining and result in stomach cramps, vomiting and bloody diarrhoea.

Viral diseases

Contaminated water provides the perfect breeding ground for viruses to develop and multiply. Once consumed, they can take the following forms:

  • Hepatitis. Hepatitis A manifests itself in the shape of loss of appetite, extreme discomfort, fatigue, fever and jaundice, while it can also result in premature death.
  • Encephalitis. Spread by the culex mosquito which lays it eggs in polluted water, encephalitis is often symptomless – but can cause coma and paralysis in susceptible individuals.
  • Polio. Poliomyelitis causes a sore throat, constipation or diarrhoea and fever, while it can result in a comatose state in severe cases.
  • Gastroenteritis. This family of diseases includes adenoviruses, calciviruses and rotaviruses, with symptoms including headaches, nausea and vomiting. It can be deadly in infants and young children.

Parasitic diseases

As the name suggests, parasitic diseases are transmitted by parasites through contaminated water. Some of the most commonplace to affect humans include:

  • Cryptosporidiosis. Caused by the cryptosporidium parasite, this global disease results in stomach cramps, diarrhoea and vomiting.
  • Galloping amoeba. Affecting the stomach lining, galloping amoeba can take both cyst and non-cyst form, precipitating chills, fever and diarrhoea in the patient.
  • Giardiasis. Sometimes known as the traveller’s disease, giardiasis manifests itself in feelings of bloatedness, weight loss, flatulence and diarrhoea.
  • Schistosomiasis. Caused by a small parasitic worm living in water, this disease can remain dormant for years – but damages the internal organs all the while.

For those interested in learning more about the topic of water pollution, the upcoming Water, Wastewater and Environmental Monitoring (WWEM) exhibition promises to be a great source of information. Scheduled to take place in Telford in the UK on the 12th and 13th October 2022, the exhibition will cover the subject from all angles.


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International Environmental Technology 32.6 - Nov/Dec 2022

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