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In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

June 27, 2008
Salmonella Can Ride Water into Tomatoes

Pick a tomato in the blazing sun and plunge it straight into cold water. If that happened on the way to market, it might be contaminated. Too big of a temperature difference can make a tomato literally suck water inside the fruit through the scar where its stem used to be. If salmonella happens to be lurking on the skin, that's one way it can penetrate and, if the tomato isn't eaten right away, have time to multiply.

There are some common themes when fresh produce makes people sick, either from salmonella - bacteria that live in the intestinal tracts of humans and numerous animals - or other microbes: Water sources, worker hygiene and wildlife or domestic animals near fields are frequent culprits because they involve points where safety systems can easily break down.

Water is an automatic first suspect. Was clean water used to irrigate, mix pesticides sprayed on crops, wash down harvest and processing equipment, and wash field workers' hands? Then in packing houses, tomatoes often go straight into a dump tank, flumes of chlorinated water for a first wash. To guard against salmonella washed into the water in turn being sucked into the tomatoes, producers often keep wash-water 10 degrees warmer than the incoming crop.

Studies never have shown that plant roots can suck salmonella up and inside the tomato, where it can't be washed out. Still, if contaminated water is sprayed onto the leaves or blooms, or bird droppings fall directly onto the foliage, salmonella might be absorbed internally.

In fact, salmonella may be particularly hard to prevent in a variety of crops because birds, reptiles and amphibians carry it - the same reason children should wash their hands after handling a turtle, iguana or frog. The tomato industry's guidelines already advise surrounding fields with bare soil "buffer zones" to discourage reptiles.

To read more about this story, please visit:
The Associated Press

WHO Report: Polluted Water Kills 4,000 People Daily

Polluted drinking water will kill around 1.6 million people world-wide this year unless governments make a concerted effort to clean up their supplies, a World Health Organization (WHO) official warned in a recent report.

More than 4,000 people die every day from water-borne diseases, said Dr James Bertram, coordinator of WHO's Water, Sanitation and Health Program. The death toll is not confined to developing nations.

A UN Environment Program report predicted that the escalating burden of water demand will become "intolerable in water-scarce countries" within the next few decades. Governments need to look at new technologies such as desalination and special filtration systems, officials said, and invest heavily in building and maintaining water infrastructure.

There has been some progress. For the first time last year, more than 50 per cent of the world's 6 billion people obtained their water through a pipe. Most of this water, however, is unreliable and unsafe.

To read more about this topic, please go to:
The World Health Organization's site

Growing Pains: The Epidemiological Transition in Mexico

The south of Mexico has the highest levels of infectious and nutritional disease, injuries, and non-communicable diseases according to a study released on June 16, 2008 in the open access journal PLoS Medicine .

The loss of healthy life years was compared to actual deaths using a standard metric called the "disability-adjusted life year" or DALY. One DALY is equivalent to the loss of a single year of health life because of premature death or disability.

Nationally, 75 percent of all deaths and 68 percent of all DALYs are caused by non-communicable diseases, in particular heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cirrhosis of the liver. Fourteen percent of deaths and 18 percent of DALYs were in turn caused by undernutrition, infectious diseases, and problems occurring in mothers and infants at the time of birth. The leading risk factors for disease were overweight status, high blood glucose, and alcohol consumption.

The "epidemiological transition" is the shift in disease pattern as a poor country becomes richer, away from infectious diseases and malnutrition and toward noncommunicable diseases. In this study, it became clear that Mexico is in fact a nation that is seeing this transition, as its improved economic status shifts the disease burden towards these diseases that are neither infectious nor related to undernutrition. However, liver cirrhosis and diabetes, with their corresponding alcohol use, overweight and obesity levels, and high blood glucose are extremely important in describing Mexico's health burden. In the poorest parts of the country, the population is lagging behind in the epidemiological transition.

To read more about this study, please go to:
Medical News Today

Associations, EPA Release Tools for Effective Utility Management Practices

Six associations representing the U.S. water and wastewater sector, in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have released a series of tools designed to help water and wastewater utilities advance effective management practices to achieve long-term sustainability. The tools are based on the 10 Attributes of Effectively Managed Utilities and five Keys to Management Success first identified in a report released by the group in May 2007.

The tools now available include the Effective Utility Management Primer for Water and Wastewater Utilities that is designed to help water and wastewater utility managers make practical, systematic changes to achieve excellence in utility performance. It was produced by water and wastewater utility leaders who also developed a series of suggested Utility Performance Measures focused on the Attributes to help utilities establish a performance baseline and begin to measure their progress. Finally, the group is releasing an online Resource Toolbox that contains links to key resources and tools.

To view the online Resource Toolbox, please go to the:
WaterEUM site

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