Saturday, 12 September 2015

SPHPM researchers investigate microbial safety targets for drinking water

SPHPM’s  Dr Joanne O’Toole, Dr Martha Sinclair, Dr Katherine Gibney and Professor Karin Leder have co-authored an article discussing microbial health-based targets that are in current use to define microbial safety targets for drinking water. The targets discussed are: i) 10-6 disability adjusted life years (DALY’s) per person per annum and, ii) 1 infection per 10,000 individuals per annum.

The first of these target values is contained within the World Health Organization’s drinking water guidelines and has also been adopted in Canada to set drinking water treatment goals. The same target was adopted for the Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling, in 2006. The second target value, prescribed in the USEPA drinking water standards, is 1 infection per 10,000 individuals per annum. This latter target has also been adopted by the Netherlands in their drinking water regulations.


The authors compared the two target values by converting each of these targets into a common metric. The rationale for this comparison was consideration being given for adoption of a microbial health-based target for drinking water supplies in Australia. The metric chosen to allow comparison of the two target values was the estimated tolerable maximum number of annual drinking water-associated cases of acute diarrhoeal disease attributed to reference micro-organisms Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Rotavirus and Norovirus with, and without, consideration of sequelae conditions arising from acute diarrhoeal disease, as relevant.

The paper concludes that introduction of a health-based outcome for drinking water in Australia would help to improve water quality management by providing a common goal directly linked to health outcomes.

Currently, the National Health and Medical Research Council is in the process of incorporation of the 10-6 disability adjusted life years (DALY’s) per person per annum health-based target into the next revision of the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

You can read the paper here

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