What is Cryptosporidium? What are the dangers of Cryptosporidium in tap water? How do you filter Cryptosporidium from tap water?
The safety of drinking water in various regions in Europe, including towns in Zaragoza, Spain, is under threat due to a resilient protozoan known to resist chlorination. While drinking straight from the tap is generally safe in Europe, this organism, resistant to common water treatment methods, is challenging that norm and poses an increasing risk. In this article we will present some solutions for individual households to protect themselves from Cryptosporidium in tap water.
What is Cryptosporidium?
Cryptosporidium is a microscopic, single-celled organism that inhabits the digestive tract of both humans and animals. In its lifecycle, it produces two types of oocysts - one with a thick wall that gets eliminated in feces and another with a soft wall that irritates the intestinal lining. This can lead to a range of symptoms such as watery diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and fever. The severity of symptoms is influenced by the amount of ingested oocysts and an individual's immune response. Alarmingly, it can also remain asymptomatic, meaning people can transmit it without showing any symptoms.
The Dangers of Cryptosporidium in Tap Water
Cryptosporidium poses a significant threat to water sources because its oocysts are resistant to standard chlorination treatments. For years, chlorination has been an effective method to disinfect drinking water, credited with saving over 173 million lives since its introduction in the late nineteenth century. However, Cryptosporidium's resistance to it leaves many water systems vulnerable. The increase in reported cases, particularly of gastroenteritis in children, can be attributed to varying temperature conditions and torrential rains – both consequences of climate change. There's also the risk associated with illegal dumping on farms housing infected animals.
Lack of Regulation and Challenges in Detection of Cryptosporidium
Detecting Cryptosporidium in both water and food supplies is complicated. Samples needed for accurate identification are large, making routine checks cumbersome. Compounding the issue is the absence of specific European regulations regarding Cryptosporidium in both food and water. In 2018, the European Food Safety Authorities underscored the scarcity of data on its presence, the ineffectiveness of current detection methods, and the lack of genotyping to trace cases to specific species.
Methods of Transmission and Resistance
Transmission of Cryptosporidium is versatile. It can occur directly from person to person, from animals to humans, or through contaminated food and water. Raw meats coming in contact with infected animal feces are potential carriers too. A notable concern is the oocysts' extreme resilience. They can survive for months in various conditions – be it fresh or saltwater, soil, refrigeration, or freezing temperatures above -20 ºC.
Prevention or Removal of Cryptosporidium in Tap Water
Though resistant to chlorination, Cryptosporidium oocysts are sensitive to UV radiation, ozonation, and high pressures. Adopting these methods can be pivotal in the water treatment process. Prevention at its core involves adhering to best practices in agriculture and manufacturing. For individuals, this translates to practicing good hygiene, purchasing from certified establishments, rigorous washing of fruits and vegetables, and cooking food thoroughly. Should an outbreak be detected, the immediate remedy is to install a water filter or switch to bottled water.
What is the best water filter to filter Cryptosporidium in tap water?
The Cryptosporidium oocysts are about 4-7 micrometers in size and therefore a water filter certified to remove all particles larger than 2 micron will provide good protection. This includes EcoPro, EcoPro Compact and PitcherPro by Tappwater as well as similar high quality activated carbon block filters or reverse osmosis systems. In addition to protection from Cryptosporidium these filters will often save money, improve your health and help reduce the environmental impact of bottled water.
The presence of Cryptosporidium in our water systems is a stark reminder of the challenges of keeping tap water safe. With its resistance to conventional treatments and the lack of effective regulations, proactive measures and increased awareness are crucial to safeguard our health.