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The Most Common Diseases Caused by Water Pollution and How to Protect Against Them

Protect against water pollution and waterborne disease

Image by silverjohn via iStock by Getty Images

Millions of individuals lack access to safe drinking water around the globe. Contamination and pollution increase bacterial growth in local water supplies, interfering with a community’s health and well-being. One of the most common symptoms of waterborne illness caused by water pollution is diarrhea.

Diarrheal conditions are also one of the leading causes of fatality in children. Fortunately, there’s a relatively simple resolution. Individuals can protect themselves from illnesses by installing effective filtration systems. They may also increase their awareness of common waterborne diseases to protect themselves and their families from death.

Typhoid Fever

One common waterborne disease is typhoid fever. Nearly 17 million individuals contract the illness annually by consuming a pathogenic bacteria. The bacteria plants itself in the individuals’ intestines and bloodstream, causing adverse health effects.

When individuals develop typhoid, they experience high fevers, headaches, liver enlargement, malaise, diarrhea, and spotting on their chests. The disease derives from human wastewater pollution. In less-developed nations, limited waste management services cause community members to dump fecal matter in local water sources.

Over time, the pollution produces bacteria and contaminates drinking water. Areas impacted by typhoid may experience population limitations.


Legionella is another global waterborne disease. The bacteria grow naturally in small quantities within natural water sources, like rivers and lakes, but develop at even higher rates in human-made water systems, causing illness.

It reproduces in warm environments, making pools, faucets, and showerheads common sources of Legionella. When individuals contract the illness, they may experience a cough, headache, fever, body aches, and respiratory complications. If communities are at risk of Legionella, they may have professionals treat the source with a bacteria removal process.

When treating a site, professionals access its potable water system and remove active biofilm elements to address pathogens. They also filter chlorine through a building’s pipes to kill Legionella and prevent future buildup.


Cholera is a waterborne disease impacting nearly 2.9 million individuals annually. It comes from the bacteria Vibrio cholerae and infects consumers’ intestines. The main symptom of cholera is diarrhea, which causes additional deleterious effects.

If individuals contract the disease and are unable to receive adequate treatment, they can die within hours. Cholera derives from water pollution in regions without satisfactory sanitation systems. When fecal matter enters community water supplies, Vibrio cholerae can develop and compromise safety.

Lead Poisoning

Another illness deriving from water pollution is lead poisoning. In a lower-income community in Michigan, individuals consumed contaminated drinking water after the local government sold off its infrastructure to a for-profit company. The city began sourcing its water from a river close to abandoned manufacturing facilities.

Industrial pollution and inadequate water quality regulations exposed community members to high lead content. A significant number of individuals developed lead poisoning, causing fatigue, weight loss, irritability, and developmental delays in children. Insufficient water quality monitoring also causes infections.


Dysentery is a waterborne disease resulting in intestinal infections. When individuals contract the illness, they may experience stomach pain, diarrhea, bloody stools, fever, and vomiting. The disease derives from the parasite Entamoeba histolytica in water sources with poor sanitation regulations.

It is one of the less severe waterborne illnesses and requires no medication. Doctors suggest patients drink plenty of fluids and wait for the infection to pass in about a week. Environmentalists evaluated the challenges and severity of water pollution-derived diseases and developed a sustainable solution.

The Solar Solution

Many waterborne diseases occur in less developed nations because of limited resources. Ecological professionals assessed the financial constraints of water purification and created a cost-effective system using solar technology. The system is self-sufficient and uses ultraviolet light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs to kill bacteria and other toxins in water sources.

The lights and connected smart technology use 12 volts of electricity, and one solar panel can power the entire system. It is portable, which will help less developed countries access the technology for short or extended periods. When communities adopt the system, they can increase the safety of their water sources.

Identifying Water Pollution

In many cases, communities only identify water pollution problems after mass illnesses. Conducting thorough and regular maintenance may prevent contamination before it produces bacteria. Testing local water supplies and cleaning pipes regularly can effectively minimize waterborne diseases and protect public health.

Author bio: Jane Marsh works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co.

1 Comment

  • Peter

    Thank you for covering such an important topic! Swimming in the pool is always less risky than swimming in ponds or lakes. But if you don’t maintain it properly, it can become hazardous, too.

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