What are the most severe diseases caused by water pollution?

Posted on 18 Mar 2022

Clean drinking water is a necessity which is not always equally accessible to everyone as a result of either location, social status, poverty or climate change as examples. Due to the inaccessibility, various communities utilise unreliable water sources to fulfil daily needs where polluted water does not always have a distinct appearance or odour. This increases the uncertainty factor pertaining to safe potable or domestic water where water-borne diseases present acute or chronic health effects. Some of the most notable diseases caused by consumption of polluted water include:


Diarrhoea – Occurs when water containing pathogens from animal or human waste is consumed. The bacteria, viruses and protozoans present produce intestinal infection and secondary effects such as dehydration and watery bowel movements amongst consumers. Severe cases of diarrhoea amongst infants and children can be fatal.


Cholera – Vibrio cholerae bacteria associated with intestinal tract infection leading to abdominal cramps, headaches and nausea. Cholera is highly contagious where one infected person can contaminate water supplies to a whole community. Severe dehydration and diarrhoea are most likely to present as symptoms, while fatalities may be present in extreme cases.


Schistosomiases – This disease is related to parasitic worms in contaminated water. Consumption or bathing allows access to the human body through penetration of skin where damage to the liver, bladder, and intestines occur.


Typhoid – The Salmonella Tryphosa bacteria associated with severe intestinal infection and ulceration through contact or consumption of infected water. Some of the most common symptoms of Typhoid include loss of appetite, nausea, and headaches.


Lead poisoning – The presence of elevated lead concentration in water is typically associated with discharge of hazardous chemicals or from the corrosion of old pipes. Lead poisoning is particularly dangerous to infants and minors as high levels of lead results in various health issues related to high blood pressure, anaemia and problems associated with the reproductive system. In severe cases, lead poisoning can lead to organ failure and damage to the nervous system.


The aforementioned diseases are only a few of the potential infections related to either consumption or physical contact with polluted water. It is therefore essential to ensure that water from a reliable source utilised and tested to ensure personal safety. The monitoring of groundwater, surface water and potable water is thus considered an active approach to continuously determine the water suitability for domestic or potable purposes. ENVASS as a multi-disciplinary service provider comprises of several experienced consultants within diverse divisions who can assist with all related water quality monitoring, programme design and scientific reporting. If you require a solution-driven proposal for these services, please do not hesitate to contact our highly qualified specialists at ENVASS on 012 460 9768 or info@envass.co.za