Water and Sanitation
The quality of water, whether used for drinking, agriculture or recreational purposes, is significant for health in all populations. In Wales, water companies supply drinking water that is wholesome and safe, in accordance with relevant water quality standards.
Occasionally, elevated levels of harmful chemicals may be present in water, from natural sources, agricultural or industrial activities, or following accidental release. Consuming water that has been contaminated with such chemicals has the potential to lead to both acute and long term health effects. Drinking water may also be responsible for the spread of infectious diseases if biologically contaminated. You can find out more about water quality, and the role of Public Health Wales in this context, by visiting the Public Health Wales Health Protection Division website.
There is a large amount of research on access to water supply/sanitation and health. It is estimated that providing adequate water and sanitation can reduce diarrhoea morbidity rates by up to 46%, and there are strong linkages between improved water supply and sanitation and significant improvement in the nutritional status of children (Seager et al. 1998). One example of the strong relationship between inequitable access to water and health inequities is the example of South Africa, where it was found that households storing water (i.e. who have to collect it from a communal water source) are 4.6 times more likely to have diarrhoea than those who have an in-house water supply and do not have to store water (Thomas 1998). A survey in Bangalore in 2000 found that two thirds of households in the city reported the presence of a toilet within the premises but less than half of these have a tap in the toilet and only four percent have a flush tank (Sinclair Knight Merz and Egis Consulting 2002). Twenty-eight percent shared a toilet with other households, four percent used public toilets, and many users complained that these public toilets are dirty, not cleaned regularly and lack lights. One percent reported that they defecate in the open. These health-related sanitary issues are socially graded.
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