7 Common Health Risks of Drinking Contaminated Water That Can Even Lead to Death


The number of cases of waterborne diseases in the United States is increasing every year. On average, such diseases lead to the death of over 7000 people while hospitalizing 120,000. Besides, these diseases also lead to 7 million illnesses and cost the government over $3 billion in healthcare costs.

So, the spread needs to be controlled, and one way to do so is by stopping the consumption of contaminated water. Before doing that, however, one must know about the health risks of drinking contaminated water. So, here’s a list of some of the most common health risks of drinking contaminated water, and some of them can even lead to death.

1 Salmonellosis

Salmonellosis is a bacterial infection that usually causes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. It can be caused by eating or drinking foods contaminated with Salmonella bacteria or by coming into contact with animals or people infected with the disease.

The symptoms of salmonellosis may start between 6 hours and 3 days after exposure to the contaminated food or water, but most often within 12–72 hours. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, diarrhea that may be bloody, fever, nausea, and vomiting. The illness usually lasts 4–7 days.

2 Typhoid

Typhoid is a type of bacterial infection that causes symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, and body aches. Typhoid is spread by consuming food or water contaminated with the feces of infected people. The disease can also be transmitted through contaminated sewage, untreated water, and airborne droplets from coughing or sneezing.

The bacteria that cause typhoid are present in the intestines of about 10% to 20% of adults in countries with poor sanitation, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). However, only about 1% to 3% of those people develop symptoms after being exposed to the bacteria.

3 Cancer

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death around the world, and it’s on the rise in many countries. Drinking contaminated water can lead to cancer by exposing you to chemicals that are known carcinogens or mutagens (chemicals that cause DNA damage). These include arsenic, chromium VI, nitrates, and nitrites that come from fertilizers and sewage treatment plants, as well as other chemicals used in manufacturing processes such as solvents.

Symptoms of the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination case revealed that the Camp Lejeune victims gradually developed cancer. The incident is decades old, but its impact is still felt, especially on those who have once called Camp Lejeune their home. This water contamination case makes it evident that contaminated water can indeed lead to cancer.

4 Cholera

Cholera is a disease that’s caused by a bacterium called Vibrio cholerae. The bacteria live in the intestines of people who have the disease, and they’re usually spread through contaminated food or water.

Vibrio cholerae is found in the environment—like estuaries and coastal waters—in both temperate and tropical areas. They can get into shellfish, which is why shellfish should always be cooked before you eat them.

When you eat food that contains Vibrio cholerae, your stomach acid kills most of them. However, some may survive and go on to infect small intestine cells, which produce large amounts of fluid as they try to fight off the infection. This can lead to severe diarrhea and vomiting, which can cause dehydration if not treated right away with rehydration therapy (a mixture of salts, sugars, and electrolytes).

5 Dysentery

Dysentery is a disease that can be caused by several different pathogens, most commonly by Shigella and Salmonella bacteria. It is characterized by profuse but watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever. The disease is usually self-limiting and lasts for a few days, though it can last up to a week in severe cases.

The most common source of infection with dysentery-causing bacteria is contaminated water or food. This can happen when there is fecal matter on the surface of the water or food or when there are feces in the water supply itself. Other ways you can become infected with dysentery include touching objects that have been contaminated with feces (such as doorknobs), eating unwashed produce, or having contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids (such as saliva).

6 Diarrhea

Diarrhea is a common symptom of waterborne illnesses, and it can be caused by the consumption of any contaminated liquid. This includes contaminated water from lakes, rivers, streams, wells, and springs.

When you drink contaminated water, it can cause stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting within a few hours. In severe cases, diarrhea can lead to dehydration if not treated properly.

7 Lead Poisoning

Lead poisoning is a serious health risk caused by drinking contaminated water. Lead can be found in many different sources, including water supplies, air pollution, and even soil.

There are no symptoms of lead poisoning at low levels, but it can cause vomiting and diarrhea, abdominal pain, constipation, poor appetite, weight loss, insomnia, headaches, and fatigue.

Lead can damage the brain and kidneys of children under six years old. Children who drink water containing more than 15 parts per billion (ppb) may have anemia or learning disabilities. Adults who drink high amounts of lead may have stomach problems, such as an increased risk of cancer.

So, avoid consuming or using contaminated water at all costs, or you might have to deal with the above-mentioned health risks.