Germs in drinking water

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TÜV Rheinland: germs in numerous water samples

The drinking water in public buildings is often significantly contaminated with germs. This is the conclusion reached by TÜV Rheinland and the ARD program "Plusminus" in a nationwide survey of tap water quality in public buildings. The reason for the sometimes considerable bacterial contamination is above all the bad pipes and dirty taps.

Washing hands in public toilets is often accompanied by contact with germs that are harmful to health, the TÜV Rheinland reported in Cologne on Tuesday. In the investigation by the TÜV and the ARD program "Plusminus" from a total of 50 tap water samples, around half of the samples showed a significantly increased bacterial load. In some cases, the bacterial loads found exceeded the permissible limit by eight times, explained the TÜV Rheinland.

Legionella, coliform bacteria and pseudomonas in the water The examination of tap water quality by the TÜV Rheinland showed that the drinking water was often significantly too high in bacteria that were harmful to health. For example, coliform bacteria, legionella and the so-called pseudomonas (also known as hospital germs) were detected in the drinking water samples from public buildings (e.g. hospitals, train station toilets). The germs can cause a variety of health complaints, which in the case of the coliform bacteria mostly concentrate on the digestive tract and cause stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting as typical symptoms. However, the so-called Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli, which occurred most recently in Germany during the EHEC epidemic, also belong to the coliform bacteria and, in addition to the health impairments already mentioned, can have considerably more far-reaching health consequences. EHEC symptoms also include damage to the kidneys and acute kidney failure, for example. The legionella detected in four drinking water samples are known to trigger legionnaires' disease, which in turn is often associated with life-threatening lung diseases. The so-called pseudomonads, which were detected in two water samples, are inflammation-promoting germs that can sometimes cause serious infections in the organism, reports the TÜV Rheinland.

Causes of germ contamination in tap water Overall, TÜV Rheinland and the ARD magazine "Plusminus" assessed the germ contamination of tap water in public buildings as extremely critical, since the different bacteria can sometimes cause considerable health problems. The reason for the contamination of the water samples is, for example, broken pipes or increased nucleation in stagnant or slow-flowing water. Poor hygiene, such as poorly cleaned taps, can also cause bacterial contamination of the tap water. In order to reduce the bacterial load, the experts at TÜV Rheinland advise that the tap water should run briefly before it is removed or before hand washing. In order to avoid standstill in the pipes and thus reduce the risk of germ development, water should also flow regularly from all taps, according to the TÜV Rheinland. In addition, the flow temperature for hot water must be set to at least 50 degrees Celsius to avoid the development of questionable bacterial loads.

Health complaints caused by germs in tap water According to the experts, the bacterial loads found in tap water samples are a serious threat, especially for people who are already suffering from health problems. "For people with a weakened immune system, these stresses can pose a health hazard," emphasized the specialist for microbiology at TÜV Rheinland, Walter Dormagen. Above all, the Legionella contamination of the tap water necessitates an acute need for action, the expert explained. The operators of the affected public buildings had been informed about the contamination of their tap water and were now asked to remedy the germ contamination, reported the TÜV Rheinland.

Germ contamination of tap water has been known for a long time In September last year, the health authorities came to the conclusion in a nationwide survey that tap water, particularly in public buildings such as military barracks, day care centers, hospitals and other publicly accessible facilities, was frequently contaminated with disease-causing bacteria. The water samples taken throughout Germany, the evaluation of which was carried out by the University of Essen, already showed considerable contamination in 2010, reported Prof. Hans-Curt Flemming from the University of Essen, who was responsible for the evaluation, at the end of September 2010. The expert complained at that time that health authorities were understaffed overall and therefore the control density did not meet the requirements. In 2010, too, legionella, pseudomonas and coliform bacteria were found relatively frequently when the tap water in public buildings was examined. However, as the current study by TÜV Rheinland shows, not much has changed since then with regard to the hygiene standards of tap water in public buildings. (fp)

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