Groundwater, Health Links to be Studied
By: IRENE MAHER
How safe is your tap water?
If you live in southern Hillsborough County, you will find out in about a year. Researchers are embarking on a major study of the health of people who drink tap water that comes from the community groundwater well.
They’re doing the study because the health of people who drink groundwater has never been studied in the United States on a large scale.
About one third of the U.S. population is served by community groundwater systems. Southern Hillsborough County has about 50,000 people who drink groundwater. They represent a cross section of the U.S. population in terms of age, education and ethnic groups.
Lillian Stark at the Florida Department of Health Bureau of Laboratories-Tampa is one of the researchers. She says the water meets quality safety standards, but scientists want to know whether improvements to water treatment are needed to benefit the health of residents.
“We’re going to be looking to see if there’s any gastrointestinal illnesses related to drinking the water,” Stark says. “We’re looking for ways to eventually treat it even better: so that there will be no health effects recognizable.”
1,000 Families Needed
The Fresh Water Study will be conducted by Emory University, the University of South Florida, Florida Department of Health, Hillsborough County Water Department, Hillsborough County Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Researchers are recruiting 1,000 families to participate. The communities to be studied include Brandon, Seffner, Valrico, Bloomingdale, Progress Village, Riverview, Gibsonton, Apollo Beach, Ruskin, Sun City Center and Wimauma.
Only households that get water from the county are eligible. Those on private wells are not. Participating households will be divided into three groups. Some will continue to drink tap water, some will receive purified bottled water and some will get tap water bottled at the water plant but not run through the delivery system’s pipes. –
Battery of Research Stark says the goal is to find out whether the health of groundwater customers can be improved by improving water quality. In addition to drinking the designated type of water, participating families will be asked to: * Complete questionnaires. * Be interviewed by a study nurse who will visit the home. * Provide a saliva sample. * Give blood (one family member only).
Participants will be expected to be part of the study for a year. There’s no cost to participate and no payment for joining in. The study will be paid for by the CDC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the American Waterworks Research Foundation. Stark says it will take about 15 months to get results once all households are enrolled. “A lot of people are interested in knowing, “Do we have a problem?’ ” she says. “Are we just missing it, or not? Maybe everything’s great.”
For details, go online to www.freshwaterstudy.org or call 1-800-519-6770.
Irene Maher’s health reports air weeknights during the 5 p.m. newscast.
Memo: TO YOUR HEALTH Copyright (c) 2004 The Tribune Co.