There are a variety of bacteria, which can cause immediate illness when ingested from contaminated drinking water. These illnesses can range from mild to moderate cases lasting only a few days, to more severe situations that can last for weeks or even result in death for those with weak immune systems (most notably the very young and the very old). Those who rely on a public water supply system which is tested regularly must still be concerned about what happens to their water after it is tested and must make its way to their home and through their home piping system. Home owners with their own wells are solely responsible for the quality and safety of their water and must do a water test at least twice a year. Travelers to foreign countries often experience problems with drinking water (“Montezuma’s Revenge”) and hikers and campers should be concerned about natural waters. Even boaters and RVers should periodically check their water supply systems for contamination.
According to the EPA, some people spend as much as 90% of their time indoors where pollution levels can be far greater than outdoors. Indoor air pollution is estimated to cause thousands of deaths due to cancer and lung disease and hundreds of thousands of respiratory disorders such as asthma. Milder symptoms include runny noses, coughing, bronchial congestion and eye irritation. Dangerous microbes can build up in heating and air conditioning ducts throughout the house without you knowing it. Ironically, they can also build up on the air and water filters that are designed to remove impurities from these climate control systems.
Foodborne bacteria can cause all sorts of problems. “Food poisoning” can foster mild to severe stomach discomfort, major gastrointestinal distress, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, hospitalization and even death. Salmonella is most widely contracted from the ingestion of contaminated poultry meat but can be found in any raw meat, some dairy products, yeast and even coconuts. E coli can be particularly dangerous. Campylobacter has been identified as the #1 bacterial cause of foodborne illness in the United States. It’s most commonly found in raw poultry, meat, and raw juices. While the food processing industry tries to identify and remove these toxic pathogens at several stages they are not always successful. It’s not just food that can harbor these bacteria but also food handling and preparation areas as well.
Where To Test? ...in and around the home
Each home is a unique, dynamic environment. Microbial concentrations are greatly determined by the inhabitants and their habits. Generally, when homes are sealed up because of heating and/or cooling, they are more prone to microbial contamination problems. Places like heating/AC ducts and air filters become areas of microbial concentration. Water supplies can become contaminated, especially well water. Additionally, water filters can readily become hot beds of microbial growth. Human eating and hygiene habits can promote microbial growth, so the kitchen and bathrooms can develop high microbial concentrations. The following is a list of suggested places to test in and around the house: