Federal health officials are continuing to raise concerns about the dangers associated with drinking “raw” water, which could contain harmful bacteria, parasites and naturally occurring toxins.
In a report published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on April 10, officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that raw or untreated water, which is increasingly sold across the nation, could contain waterborne illnesses that could cause serious and potentially fatal health consequences for those with weakened immune systems or pregnant women.
Dr. Vince Hill, chief of the Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch at the CDC, indicates that treated water is much safer for consumption and protects consumers against infectious diseases and potential chemical exposures.
Raw water is simply the collection of water from natural springs that is bottled and sole without any filtering or treatment. The bottling and sale of raw water across the U.S. has become increasingly popular over the last few years, as start-up companies, such as Tourmaline Spring of Maine and Live Water of Oregon, have begun delivering and selling untreated water in a variety of forms, including jugs and bottles that are eligible for refills through the distributors.
As the trend becomes increasingly more common, federal health officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the CDC have warned that consumers could be at serious risk of infection and disease from consuming unfiltered and untreated water products.
The EPA has warned that unfiltered water could be subject to many health hazards including exposure to farm waste runoff, septic tank spillover chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers, household waste exposure, elevated lead levels and chemicals that occur in the ground naturally.
The CDC has also warned of potential long-term side effects of raw water consumption, including the possibility of kidney and liver damage, nervous system disorders, and birth defects. Pregnant women who consume raw water products could be at a significantly increased risk of miscarriage or stillbirths if the products contain harmful chemicals or bacteria.
Treated water products used for public consumption in the United States are put through an extensive filtration and disinfectant process to remove dirt and dissolved particles and are treated with chlorine to kill parasites, bacteria, viruses and to protect water from germs when it is piped to homes and businesses.