Posted December 15, 2015

Temple researcher links private water wells to illness

Heather Murphy's research in Canada could be helpful in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

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A Temple researcher finds those who use water from private wells may be more likely to contract an acute stomach bug.
A Temple University researcher’s recently published study might illuminate a previously unclear relationship between private water wells in Canada and an acute stomach bug—findings that could have implications in the Keystone State.
Authored by Heather Murphy, assistant professor of environmental health in the College of Public Health, the study found that an approximate four million Canadians who receive water from private wells or small community systems may be more likely to contract acute gastrointestinal illness (AGI) than those served by public systems. Symptoms of the illness include diarrhea, fever and vomiting.
Her findings were published in the journal Epidemiology and Infection and could be helpful in determining how many AGI cases in Pennsylvania arise from microorganisms in private well water. Private household wells in Pennsylvania, like those in Canada, are unregulated. More than one million homeowners in Pennsylvania rely on such wells, according to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. 
Though there are an estimated 20 million cases of AGI in Canada each year, the number linked to the private water supplies and certain contaminants in them was unclear prior to Murphy’s study.
“The number of cases of AGI attributable to private wells in Canada is 78,073 and could be as many as 81,000 annually in Pennsylvania if we apply the same approach,” said Murphy, who conducted the research as a fellow at the Public Health Agency of Canada alongside researchers from the agency and Health Canada.
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—Angelo Fichera