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Fecal Coliform and E. Coli in Water

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Low-temperature electron micrograph of a clust...

Low-temperature electron micrograph of a cluster of E. coli bacteria, magnified 10,000 times. Each individual bacterium is oblong shaped. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Coliform, or fecal coliform bacteria are a group of bacteria that are used as indicators of sanitary quality in drinking water due to their universal existence in the fecal matter of man and animals. Not all coliforms are harmful, but their presence could indicate the existence of other fecal-borne pathogens like bacteria, viruses or protozoa which may be dangerous.

How Dangerous is E. Coli?

E. Coli, or Eschericha coli are bacteria which are found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded mammals. Most strains of these bacteria are harmless and are in fact part of normal gut-flora. These strains can benefit hosts be producing vitamin K (which is required for blood coagulation and some metabolic processes) and by preventing the establishment of pathogenic bacterium (the kind that causes disease) with in the intestine. But some strains can cause serious illness, and even death.

Among these is a strain called Escherichia coli O157:H7 which was responsible for half the population in a small Ontario community called Walkerton to become ill in May of 2000. Seven people died from drinking the water that was infected with this strain of E. Coli and two people were sentenced to prison for their part in the outbreak.

What are the symptoms of E. Coli infection?

E. Coli can commonly cause gastroenteritis; characterized by vomiting and diarrhea, urinary tract infections, and neonatal meningitis which is an inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. On rare occasions it can also cause hemolytic-uremic syndrome or HUS which is a disease that causes anaemia and kidney failure predominantly in children. Peritonitis, mastitis and septicemia are also conditions that can be caused by pathogenic E. Coli strains.

In order for our drinking water to be clean of these harmful bacteria, chlorine is used as an effective measure to eradicate them. Fecal coliform bacteria are tested for regularly and are used as an indicator for whether the water has been contaminated with the fecal material of humans or other animals. Fecal coliform bacteria can enter rivers through direct discharge of waste from mammals and birds, from agricultural and storm runoff, and from human sewage. However, their presence may also be the result of plant material, and pulp or paper mill effluent. Ideally, none will be present in the drinking water supply.

Is harmful E. Coli only found in Drinking Water?

E. Coli has been found in food items, notably in meat due to the fact that these bacteria are hosted in the animals we eat. They can find their way to other food products through transference from food processing or even improperly composted fertilisers. Health Canada maintains a watch on food products that can become contaminated and issues advisories much the same way it will issue boil water advisories if E. Coli is found in drinking water supplies.

Can water filters help?

Unfortunately E. Coli is not removable by most water filtration processes, which is why chlorine is still used in most water treatment facilities to make drinking water safe for Canadian families. But chlorine and its by-products raises health concerns of its own, including bladder cancer, and so it is still a good idea to purchase the best home water filtration system available to ensure that your drinking water is pure. The reverse osmosis water filtration system removes most contaminants. For more information on how this system can remove chlorine taste and residuals from your family’s drinking water after it’s killed the harmful bacteria that may be present in your tap water, please contact us now, or visit our online store.

If you’re at all concerned about the quality of your water, or you simply want to be certain, you should choose an Aquasafe Home Reverse Osmosis System. An Aquasafe Home Reverse Osmosis system will remove all contaminants from water, including E. Coli and other bacteria, producing guaranteed safe water you can count on every time. And it’s only a few cents per liter! Shop online and save today.

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