Monday, March 16, 2009

Disease and Parasites: YUCK!

Monica Ek
Disease and Parasites: Yuck!
Although, recently new findings have linked harmful affects from byproducts from chlorine used as a disinfectant, the consequences of not using the chemical are worse. Disinfecting the water is one of the best uses of chemistry in our world in benefiting humans. Public health is better, disease has decreased and the well-being of people can be better managed. The fear of the byproducts has had a bad affect on its usage. The reality is though, that disinfectant has saved millions of lives. “Typhoid and Cholera were widespread in Europe and North America a century ago, but they have been almost completely eradicated in the developed world thanks largely to chlorination and the other methods for disinfecting drinking water.” This isn’t the same case for developing countries that do not use disinfectant in their water system. Water is living and nesting place for lots of bacteria, parasites and diseases especially if it is not treated. When the water sits their underground, anything can leak into it. The use of wells is also a nesting ground for illness. Many villages in under developed countries are unaware of the risks they are taking all the time with the water they drink. Most countries don’t use disinfectants because lack of awareness, lack of funds or sometimes the fear of the byproducts. “20 million people die each year from water-borne diseases” where water is not treated.
It still is also a concern in developed countries especially with new illness such as the pathogen Cryptosporidium in Milwaukee, Oxford, England and North Battleford, Saskatchewan. This was a problem because it was resistant to the usual disinfectants such as chlorination and chlorine dioxide. It is also is very small so easily passes through filters. But research was done to find that other disinfectants worked including ozonation and ultraviolet treatment so it was eradicated. This extra money for research would be helpful but unavailable for those villages in developing countries. Cleanliness and overall sanitation would help a lot as well especially in the placement of human and animal feces. Water disinfectants would be so helpful in preventing illnesses worldwide.
Also, the equipment for water purification has to be carefully monitored as it can fail or be ineffective if it is monitored improperly. The importance of disinfectants is shown when, for example, in Walkerton, Ontario the equipment failed and the population was quickly affected with sickness as well as a few deaths by a deadly bacteria. Disinfectants are needed and important,.

How much research has been done on disinfectants? Can we eradicated more than we know ? Are we only paying attention on the diseases and waterborne illnesses within developed nations as there is funding? What is the potential for disinfectants? Can we research more to come up with something other than chlorine with less harmful byproducts, possibly a green disinfectant? How can we spread awareness to developing countries? How can we clean wells and water systems without being nationalistic?
What are we currently doing? If we can create the equipment in developing countries, how can we make sure is properly maintained to be affective?

Baird, Colin. “Chemistry in Your Life”. W.H. Freeman and Company. New York. 2006.

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