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Hand washing improves drinking water

June 30, 2010 at 10:30 PM   |   Comments

STANFORD, Calif., June 30 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say hand washing can improve the bacterial count of water collected at sources and brought home in containers.

Alexandria Boehm, Jenna Davis of Stanford University say about half of the world's population, more than 3 billion people, have no access to municipal drinking water and obtain drinking water from wells, springs and other sources and store it in jugs and other containers. Past research showed stored water can have higher levels of bacterial contamination than the water at its source.

Boehm, Davis and students find a strong link between fecal contamination on the hands of household residents and bacterial contamination in stored water in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The water stored in containers had nearly 100 times more fecal bacteria than the source where it was collected.

"The results suggest that reducing fecal contamination on hands should be investigated as a strategy for improving stored drinking water quality and health among households using non-networked water supplies," the study says.

The study is published in the Environmental Science & Technology.

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