STANFORD, Calif., May 17 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists report new evidence supporting the idea that handwashing can prevent the spread of water-borne disease.
Researchers at Stanford University led by Associate Professor Alexandria Boehm and Assistant Professor Jenna Davis said their study showed a connection between fecal bacteria contamination on hands, fecal contamination of stored drinking water and health in households in a developing country in Africa.
Boehm, Davis and their students said nearly half of the world's population has no access to municipal drinking water supply systems. Such peoples obtain drinking water from wells, springs and other sources, storing it in jugs and other containers in their homes. Past research showed stored water can have higher levels of bacterial contamination than its source, but it was not understood why that occurred.
The scientists said their new study found a strong link between fecal contamination on the hands of household residents and bacterial contamination in stored water in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Stored water contained nearly 100 times more fecal bacteria than the source where it was collected.
"The results suggest 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 researchers said.
The study appears in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
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