Have you ever gotten sick without realizing why?
Have you noticed the condition of your water getting worse and worse over time?
Did you ever think these two situations might be related?
Unfortunately, there are several diseases caused by water pollution, and they may be more likely than you think.
In this article, you’ll be briefly introduced to the problem of water pollution and how it can have an effect on your health. You’ll then be provided with a list of diseases caused by water pollution that you should be on the lookout for.
By the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll be ready to recognize any health problems caused by water pollution and you’ll know what to do to take care of them—and to prevent them. Read on to learn more.
Water pollution is a huge
problem around the world. You’ve probably heard this, but you might not have ever realized just how significant it really is. Fresh water is being polluted around the world, not just at the surface, but also as deep as groundwater too. Runoff from factories, pollution from dumping, and even the regular use of chemicals in agriculture and around the home contribute to the increase in water contamination around the world.
Unfortunately, this leads to
several illnesses caused by water pollution. It’s estimated that over 80% of the diseases spread worldwide come from water pollution and that nearly 2 billion deaths every year occur because of this major problem. With so many diseases caused by water contamination, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the symptoms in order to recognize any potential problems before they get too bad. Below are thirty such diseases as well as their causes, risk factors, and more. 1. Cholera
Symptoms Dehydration Severe diarrhea Stomach upset Sometimes death Cause Bacteria found in polluted water Ingesting water with bacteria present Swimming in contaminated water with an open wound Factors that Increase Risk Lack of stomach acid O blood type Uncooked shellfish Unsanitary conditions Treatment Get vaccinated against cholera. Be sure to keep up with vaccinations. Strict antibiotic treatment and hospitalization are the only treatment post-infection. Prevention Use treated water in your home at all times. Use bottled or boiled water if your city has a boil water order. Always wash unpeeled fruit and vegetables, even if you will peel them. Avoid unpasteurized milk products. Avoid undercooked shellfish. 2. Dracunculiasis
Symptoms Fever Swelling and pain Worms visible in welts on the skin Itching, stinging and tingling skin Vomiting and diarrhea Cause Exposure to the Guinea worm’s larvae in water The worm becomes an opportunistic parasite on the human body Factors that Increase Risk Ingesting untreated water especially found in nature Living in an area where this infection is common Swimming in contaminated water with open wounds Treatment Ibuprofen to reduce inflammation and pain Topical antibiotics Slowly pulling the worm out of the body over a period of days by using a sterile stick Prevention Always use clean, filtered water for every purpose. If camping or otherwise spending time in nature, always bring a powerful water filter. Boil water if no filter is available. 3. Typhoid
Symptoms High fever Stomach and headache Weakness Loss of appetite Constipation Very rarely, internal bleeding Cause Bacteria that can be found in polluted water Food that has been contaminated by either drinking contaminated water or being grown with contaminated water Factors that Increase Risk Traveling to countries in the developing world Traveling to South Asia Exposure to contaminated water that hasn’t been filtered or boiled Treatment Antibiotic treatment and hospitalization are the most common types of treatment for typhoid. Ibuprofen for inflammation and pain may also be administered. Prevention Wash your hands frequently and don’t touch your eyes with dirty hands. Don’t drink water from taps or make ice from this water in countries where typhoid is present. Don’t eat raw or room temperature food in these countries. Don’t eat unwashed food. 4. Diarrhea
Symptoms Watery, loose feces Uncontrollable urge to go to the bathroom Feces of strange colors or with significant bad smell Cause Drinking water contaminated with bacteria Drinking water contaminated with chemicals Factors that Increase Risk Regularly drinking well water that isn’t filtered Drinking or using water from a natural source without treatment Eating food that hasn’t been washed, or that has been washed with contaminated water Treatment Treatment is usually rest and plenty of liquids. Hospitalization may be required for severe dehydration. Eating simple foods until the stomach settles is a priority with diarrhea. Prevention Always boil water or use bottled water if you aren’t sure of the quality. Use a filter at home if you have well water or questionable city water. Wash food with clean water. 5. Ulcers
Symptoms Fullness in the stomach, even after eating very little Frequent bloating and gas Burning pain described as being in the “pit” of the stomach Frequent heartburn and nausea Cause Any type of irritation to the lining of the stomach or intestines Chemical pollutants in water, which can damage the lining of the stomach severely Bacteria that may be present in water Factors that Increase Risk Frequently drinking alcohol and smoking Eating spicy foods often Being high-stress much of the time Combining any of these factors with consuming polluted water Treatment If caused by a bacteria, antibiotics Medication that reduces the production of acid in the stomach Antacids on a regular basis Medication that protects the stomach’s lining Prevention Avoid contaminated water to reduce the risk of irritating the stomach or introducing a bacteria. Do not use alcohol or tobacco regularly. Eat mild foods. 6. Hepatitis
Symptoms Fatigue Fever Nausea Yellow skin or eyes Cause The introduction of fecal matter into the body A virus spread from fecal matter to the human liver Factors that Increase Risk Abuse of alcohol or tobacco significantly over time Other drug use Exposure to unsanitary conditions Treatment Hospitalization in order to keep the body hydrated Rigid antibiotic treatment over time Antiviral medication administered for a long period of time Prevention Vaccination against hepatitis from a young age Avoiding unsanitary conditions Always boiling or filtering water before use Avoiding swimming in natural, untreated bodies of fresh water 7. Respiratory Infection
Symptoms Coughing or sneezing Stuffy head Headache and earache Rattling in the chest Difficulty breathing Cause Bacteria that may be ingested through contaminated water Exposure to viruses in water that has been polluted with fecal matter Exposure to chemicals in polluted water Factors that Increase Risk Having a weak immune system due to disease or medication Frequent respiratory infections in the past Living in unsanitary conditions Treatment Antibiotic or antiviral medication Plenty of rest and liquids Hospitalization in some situations Medication to break up mucus in some situations Prevention Avoid drinking water that hasn’t been filtered or boiled. Avoid eating food that may have been prepared in unsanitary conditions. 8. Earaches
Symptoms Pain in the ear Itching in the ear Dizziness and nausea Feeling of stuffiness in the head Cause Exposure to bacteria in contaminated water supplies Exposure to viruses in water contaminated by fecal matter Swimming in natural sources of water Factors that Increase Risk Frequent earaches in the past A weak immune system due to illness or medication Very young children and the elderly are more likely to experience this effect of pollution. Treatment Most earaches are treated with antibiotics or antiviral medication. Painkillers may be given to help with inflammation and pain. Rest and drinking plenty of clean water can also help. Prevention Avoid drinking untreated water or water that hasn’t been boiled. Avoid swimming in natural sources of fresh water that haven’t been treated 9. Fluorosis
Symptoms Discoloration of the teeth Deep pits in the teeth Irregularities in the surface or color of the teeth Cause Over-exposure to water that has been treated with fluoride Using fluoride treated toothpaste along with water that already contains too much fluoride Sometimes referred to as “fluoride poisoning” Factors that Increase Risk Swallowing toothpaste instead of spitting it out Using city water that has been over-treated Drinking other liquids treated with fluoride, such as mouthwash Treatment Teeth-whitening procedures at the dentist’s office Bonding the teeth with enamel Veneers and crowns on the teeth Prevention Always filter city water before using. Always spit out toothpaste and mouthwash instead of swallowing it. Encourage children to spit out toothpaste even if it tastes good. 10. Arsenicosis
Symptoms Confusion Fatigue Convulsions Diarrhea Headache Cause Drinking contaminated groundwater Drinking surface water that has been contaminated with chemicals Using rainwater without treatment Factors that Increase Risk Frequent exposure to contaminants at the workplace Drink water from a well that is made of stone Eating undercooked poultry Treatment Hospitalization Removal of arsenic from blood through medication Potassium supplements Prevention Avoid drinking water from stone wells without proper filtration or treatment Always boil well water before use Always thoroughly cook poultry before eating 11. Cancer
Symptoms Depending on the type of cancer, symptoms may vary significantly. Pain is one symptom that is associated with just about every type of cancer. Cause There are many causes of cancer. Exposure to water that has been contaminated with runoff from nuclear power plants has been known to cause cancer in some individuals. Factors that Increase Risk Living near a nuclear power facility Living near other types of industrial facilities Drinking or swimming in water near these locations Treatment Treatment for cancer is not always effective. Some treatments include radiation and chemotherapy. Holistic treatments have been known to work in some instances. Prevention Always filter water before use. Do not drink water sourced from near facilities that may cause runoff. Do not eat fish that come from these sources. 12. Neurological Dysfunction
Symptoms Symptoms may be varied. Nervousness Fatigue Confusion Convulsions Cause Drinking water contaminated with chemicals Drinking water contaminated with parasitic bacteria Factors that Increase Risk Weakened immune system from medication or illness Exposure to chemicals in the workplace or at home Treatment Treatment varies depending on severity. For some cases, antibiotic or antiviral treatment may suffice. In some instances, surgery is required. Prevention Always wear a filtration mask when working with chemicals. Always boil water or filter well before use. Do not swim in or drink water from natural sources that may contain bacteria. 13. Liver Damage
Symptoms Fatigue Weakness Weight loss Vomiting Yellow skin or eyes Cause Bacteria in water supplies Fecal matter in water supplies Chemicals in water supplies Factors that Increase Risk A weakened immune system Very young or very old age Frequent use of drugs, tobacco, and alcohol Treatment Antiviral or antibiotic medication Hydration Stopping the use of alcohol In rare, severe instances, liver transplant Prevention Only eat food prepared in sanitary conditions. Reduce your intake of drugs and alcohol. Use only clean, treated or boiled water. 14. Kidney Damage
Symptoms Reduced urine levels Shortness of breath Fatigue Confusion Pain in the sides Convulsions Cause Infection caused by drinking water polluted with bacteria Allergic reaction to chemicals in water Factors that Increase Risk Very young or very old age Weakened immune system Previous kidney infection Certain medications Treatment For infection, treatment with aggressive antibiotics or antiviral medication may work. Painkillers to reduce pain and inflammation. Dialysis may be required when kidney function is limited. A kidney transplant may be required in extreme situations. Prevention Do not drink water from groundwater that may have been contaminated with chemical runoff. Do not drink water from natural sources without filtration. 15. Thyroid Disorder
Symptoms Fatigue Weight loss or gain Sensitivity to cold Constipation Pain and inflammation Cause Exposure to certain chemicals in the water supply Exposure to certain bacteria in the water supply Factors that Increase Risk Weakened immune system Radiation treatments Previous thyroid surgery Certain medications Treatment Hormone replacement Iodine Surgery Prevention Avoid exposure to potentially contaminated water, especially if you already have a weak immune system. Boil or filter water before use. 16. Endocrine Damage
Symptoms Diabetes Excessive hunger Excessive thirst Weight loss or gain Frequent need to urinate Swollen feet or hands Joint aches Cause Lesions caused by exposure to certain chemicals Hormone imbalance caused by chemical exposure Infection from bacteria Factors that Increase Risk Existing diabetes Exposure to chemicals and hormones in polluted water Too much or too little iodine Treatment Depending on the type of endocrine disorder, treatment may vary significantly. Medication is available to treat many endocrine disorders. Hormone replacement may work in some cases. Prevention Eating healthy food and a balanced diet Frequent blood tests to check for possible problems. 17. Malaria
Symptoms Fever Headache Chills Organ failure Coma In some instances, death Cause Mosquitos that are infected with the malaria parasite Water in which this parasite can thrive Factors that Increase Risk Weakened immune system Other existing illness Very young or old age Treatment Medications to reduce symptoms Medications to encourage the death of the parasite Hospitalization is always required. Prevention Use mosquito nets in areas where malaria is present. Use insect repellent in these areas. Widespread prevention through commercial-grade insect repellant. 18. Schistosomiasis
Symptoms Painful, bloody urine Anemia Swelling Enlarged liver or spleen Enlarged or inflamed bladder Abdominal pain Cause Exposure to a certain type of freshwater snail in contaminated water Exposure to parasites Factors that Increase Risk Children are more at risk than adults. Poor medical treatment Unsanitary conditions Treatment Medication to treat the infection and encourage death of the parasites Experimental vaccine Prevention Education about the possibility of this disease Avoiding unsanitary conditions when cooking and eating food Avoiding polluted surface and groundwater sources 19. Trachoma
Symptoms Irritation of the eyelid Swelling of the eyelid Dryness, itching or burning in the eye Eventually, blindness Cause Bacteria present in contaminated water Contact with someone else with trachoma Factors that Increase Risk Weakened immune system Frequent exposure to untreated water Swimming in natural water sources Treatment Antibiotic treatment Surgery to correct swelling and eye deformity Prevention Avoid rubbing your eyes without washing your hands first. Avoid swimming in natural fresh water. Avoid drinking contaminated water. 20. HIV
Symptoms Pain Fatigue Swelling and inflammation Coughing Mouth ulcers Trouble swallowing Cause Transmitted through bodily fluids Water exposed to feces, blood or urine Note: It is important to realize that polluted water is not a direct cause of HIV but may lead to this disease developing in some individuals. Factors that Increase Risk Exposure to bodily fluids Exposure to unsanitary conditions, particularly such as dirty needles Treatment Anti-retroviral treatment can decrease the chance of HIV progressing to AIDS and reduce the effects of this disease. Prevention Avoid contact with contaminated water. Avoid contact with dirty needles. Avoid unprotected sex. 21. Dengue Fever
Symptoms Abdominal pain Chills and fever Weakness Rashes Easy bleeding and bruising Cause Bites from mosquitos and other animals carrying this illness Water exposed to this illness from animals Factors that Increase Risk Having previously had dengue fever A weakened immune system Treatment Pain relievers for inflammation and pain Fluid administration for dehydration Hospitalization Prevention Avoid areas where water is contaminated either on the surface or below ground. Always treat water before use. Do not eat food prepared in unsanitary conditions. 22. Dysentery
Symptoms Bloody diarrhea Fever Weakness Abdominal pain Cause Bacteria or amoeba present in contaminated water Factors that Increase Risk Weakened immune system Frequent exposure to contaminated water Eating food that might also be contaminated Treatment Hospitalization IV fluids for dehydration Antibiotics Prevention Cleaning up drinking water sources Proper hygiene and care of food during cooking and storage 23. Lead Poisoning
Symptoms Abdominal pain Neurological changes Convulsions Irritability In some cases, death Cause Too much lead present in drinking water Lead present in other sources, such as paint Factors that Increase Risk Living in an area where lead paint was previously used in homes Frequent exposure to lead at work Very young age Treatment Medication to remove lead from the blood Treatment of individual symptoms Prevention Avoid exposure to lead as much as possible. Always filter your water, even if it comes from the city. Check your children’s toys for lead paint. 24. Polio
Symptoms Fever Extreme fatigue Muscle weakness Paralysis Low muscle development in children Cause Water contaminated with the polio virus Food contaminated with the polio virus Factors that Increase Risk Contact with someone who has polio Very young or very old age Weakened immune system Treatment Anti-inflammatory medication Physical therapy Rest and fluids Prevention Practice good hygiene. Avoid drinking water or eating food that may be contaminated. 25. Intestinal Parasites
Symptoms Stomach upset Bloating and gas Nausea and vomiting Diarrhea and constipation Cause Exposure to parasites in food or drinking water Being bitten by a mosquito or other animal exposed to contaminated water Factors that Increase Risk Frequent stomach upset or existing gastric condition Eating spicy foods Certain medications Treatment Medication to reduce inflammation and pain Fluid treatment for diarrhea Medication to treat constipation Prevention Avoid areas where water is very dirty or obviously contaminated. Always filter water even if it comes from the city. Always boil or filter well water. 26. Pink Eye
Symptoms Inflammation of the eye Itching and redness of the eye Discharge from the eye Cause Bacteria present in drinking water Viruses present in drinking water Exposure to someone else with pink eye Factors that Increase Risk Children are at a greater risk than adults. Frequent contact with others who have pink eye Treatment Antibiotics Steroid treatment Cold compresses Time (may heal on its own) Prevention Avoid rubbing eyes without washing hands first. Avoid contact with contaminated water supplies. 27. Polyomavirus
Symptoms Kidney problems or failure Respiratory infection Tumors Cause Bites from animals and birds exposed to the virus Exposure to contaminated water Factors that Increase Risk Existing cancer Existing illness Previous serious infection Treatment Antiviral medication Hospitalization Treatment of individual symptoms Prevention Avoid unsanitary conditions when preparing food or water. Always boil water or filter before using. Clean all animal bites and receive treatment. 28. Vomiting
Symptoms Nausea Frequent or infrequent vomiting Cause Exposure to irritants in water sources, such as chemicals Exposure to bacteria that cause illness in water supplies Factors that Increase Risk Chronic stomach upset or conditions Frequent “weak” stomach Eating spicy foods Treatment Rest Fluid administration in some situations Medication to reduce the feeling of nausea Prevention Avoid drinking or swimming in contaminated water sources. Avoid water sources near factories or other causes of runoff. 29. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Symptoms Constipation or diarrhea Frequent bloating and gas Heartburn Indigestion Cause Inflammation of the stomach lining Consuming chemically polluted water Factors that Increase Risk Frequent stomach upset Eating foods that may be difficult to digest Frequent exposure to chemicals in food and water Treatment Medications to treat individual symptoms Altering diet Prevention Eat mild foods. Always use clean water. Filter water from the city or from wells. Bring along a water filter if you’ll be getting your water from a natural source. 30. Stomach Cramps
Symptoms Abdominal pain Bloating Feeling of needing to go to the bathroom often Cause Exposure to bacteria in water supplies Exposure to chemicals in water supplies Factors that Increase Risk Frequent stomach upset Eating foods that are hard to digest Stress Treatment Medications to treat the symptoms of stomach cramps Altering diet Prevention Always filter water before drinking. Stay away from foods that generally cause stomach upset. Do not consume hormone-treated foods. Conclusion As you can see, it’s more likely than you might think to come down with a disease caused by water pollution. It’s best to try to take steps to prevent this possibility, but if you notice yourself or someone you love coming down with the symptoms of any of these diseases, be sure to look into possible treatment.
The more you keep an eye on your health when it comes to water pollution, the better off you’ll be. You’ll be able to recognize problems before they arise, and you’ll be safer overall.