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Giardia contamination in water: this article explains Giardia cyst contamination in drinking water and we review alternative treatment, sterilization, or giardia removal methods used to make drinking water safe from giardia contamination.
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This article series outlines methods to purify or sanitize drinking water in an emergency following a disaster such as an earthquake, flood, or hurricane. Some of the water treatment or water purification methods discussed are also used for regular non-emergency water sterilization as well.
For explanation of the types of contaminants found in water and how they are removed in residential water systems, see WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT. See WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES for details on other water treatment options.
See Filters for Drinking Water Purification for a discussion of portable and emergency water filters that are designed to purify drinking water, including portable ceramic water filters, silver ceramic filters, magnetic (bogus) water purifiers, paper and polypropylene water filters, etc.
See DRINKING WATER EMERGENCY PURIFICATION for a discussion of various methods used to purify emergency drinking water.
A companion article, DRINKING WATER EMERGENCY SOURCES,describes possible sources of drinking water that may be useful in emergency conditions.
Advice for Dealing with Giardia cysts in Drinking Water - working draft
InspectAPedia.com reader Sharon Ross is a New York City resident, a Riverkeeper member and a MENSA member, who for health reasons has collected references and treatment information about dealing with Giardia cyst contamination in drinking water. This article is in draft form and is incomplete. Contact Us with corrections or suggestions.
Giardia cysts also survives the amounts of chlorine in municipal water treatment. Dr. Herman Bueno, a Parasitologist I conferred with reported in 1994 that people with AIDS were dying of Giardia in hospitals because of their weakened immune systems. We would not recommend that anyone with a compromised immune system eat raw vegetables without sufficient sterilization to kill parasite cysts.
Ceramic Filters for Giardia cyst & Cryptosporidium Removal from Drinking Water
There are ceramic giardia and cryptosporidium filters that can be used to filter tap water so that cysts will not be ingested by drinking it. The company that I have bought my ceramic filter from is Duff company, though there are other companies that also carry them. The ceramic filters are "absolute" and if used properly, remove the cysts 100 percent.
Well water, or even municipal water when it delivered inside of some buildings, contains high levels of sediment that causes water filters to clog quickly. Thus water filters may need cleaning as often as every few days, making filtration to remove giardia a labor intensive solution. But it beats being exposed to cysts which may be present in some drinking water supplies.
Eventually ceramic water filters wear down from the constant scrubbing and they have to be replaced. Even with the work involved, we recommend them for anyone with a compromised immune system. See Filters for Drinking Water Purification for details of various water filter options.
Charcoal Water Filters for Giardia cyst & Cryptosporidium Removal from Drinking Water
Granulated charcoal filters do not work. Environmental activist, Robert F Kennedy Jr. has been aware of Giardia contamination of our water and we think that he was trying to get a filtration system that would remove cysts built for NYC. The problem was the cost - by some estimates over a billion dollars.
Whole House Filtration Systems for Giardia cyst & Cryptosporidium Removal from Drinking Water
There are now both point of use reverse osmois systems (photo at left) and whole house filters or RO systems that remove parasite cysts. A sample proposal for a whole house reverse osmosis (RO) water treatment system is provided at Example of an Equipment Design for Water Filtration for Giardia. A reverse osmosis whole house filter system including a large storage tank can be installed if you own your own home and have a place to put it.
Also available is a filter attachment to remove nitrates as well, since nitrates can be a problem in some areas. I am sending you is an attachment with a link. Sato Iwasa of Pure Water Express was very helpful and knowledgeable in discussing whole house water treatment options. Duff Company provides ceramic giardia cyst filters.
OPINION: Our beaches are no longer safe for the immune compromised and maybe not for others as well. Billions of tons of raw sewage are being dumped into Long Island Sound because we do not have the sewage treatment plants to handle it. This can be confirmed by another New York environmental organization, "Riverkeeper".
That means that waste from third world immigrants who are carriers of parasites from India, the middle east, China, and Latin America and other countries where parasites are endemic is being carried by the currents to the ocean beaches that New Yorkers swim in. According to Dr. Bueno, cysts take at least three days to die in ocean water so they can be still viable and be ingested.
Examples of U.S. Sources of Giardia Infection
You do not have to travel to a foreign country to be exposed to Giardia cysts, though it has been our experience that many physicians still believe that you do, and if you complain of parasite related symptoms they still ask you if you have left the country.
Giardia Contamination Around New York City
In New York there are huge storm drain runoff pipes that run into Little Neck Bay. Some of them are near Alley Pond Environmental center and you can speak to the director of the center about them. I had taken a wrong turn on a trail in Alley Pond park leading from the center when encountered a terrible stink and I came one of "storm" drains which are storm drains no longer and there is a constant flow of sewage from them. There was a hoard of seagulls circling overhead and the filth was pouring into the waters leading to the sound. When we (Ross) asked the director about why this was happening, since it was a sunny dry day with no rain in sight, he told me that the storm drains are in operation constantly because we do not have the facilities to handle all of the raw sewage.
On the opposite side of the storm drains running into Little Neck Bay are Westchester beaches, though few doctors would make the connection if someone complains of exhaustion weakness, diarrhea, MS like symptoms and abdominal pain.
Dr. Tennenbaum, an infectious disease specialist reported that they now treat empirically for Giardia if the person has been in endemic areas in our country i.e.: vacationing in Maine, and is exhibiting symptoms. because Giardia is so difficult to find. We do not know if New York City is considered an endemic area for Giardia.
Eating out in some restaurants can also cause problems. Giardia is endemic to the USA and can be carried and spread from anyone born here who has been infected. Further, restaurant workers who have lived-in countries where parasites like entameoba histolytica are common may be a potential source of parasites.
Some people who suffer from a compromised immune system no longer eat out in restaurants.
Safe foods? According to Dr. Amin, parasite cysts cannot withstand the freeze/thaw cycle, so am safe with ice cream (I am not considering bacteria that can withstand freezing) and food taken out from a restaurant that is frozen, thawed and then re-heated.
Ross recommends that anyone wash their hands thoroughly when they come home and turn public faucets on and off with clean paper towels.
Difficulty in Diagnosing & Treating Giardia Infection
When a person first becomes infected with Giardia, stress and irritable bowel may be suggested by more than one physician.
Parasite cysts are often difficult to spot under the microscope and tests for them can manifest negative results when a person is really infected. Dr. Bueno reported that the US army tests GI's 8 times if they complain of parasite type symptoms and the results are negative. Dr. Amin also said that two stool samples might not be sufficient to determine if a person is infected.
Use of UV light, Vinegar, or Chlorine for Giardia cysts ?
As for vinegar as a method of killing giardia cysts, it is highly acidic and it breaks down the walls of the giardia cysts, if it is used full strength. Dr. Omar Amin, of "Parasitology Center " in Tempe, Az confirmed this. [WARNING: authoritative sources confirming the safety of this approach have not been obtained.]
Here is a representative reader comment: "I have battled an immune disorder and I had been very ill with intractable Giardia because of my condition. I do not eat raw produce now unless I sterilize it. Right now, I use distilled white vinegar.
I submerge vegetables in pure vinegar for 25 minutes but more porous vegetables have a vinegar taste when I am done.
I have ceramic giardia filters on my tap water now and I was thinking that if I could use a peroxide solution, and then rinse off the peroxide in fresh, giardia free water, I would not have to deal with a vinegar taste."
UV doesn't kill cysts, according to Dr. Amin and I have seen websites that advertise it to kill giardia which is very misleading. it will kill Giardia trophozoites but the real concern for drinking water is the cysts, since it is the cysts from stool that appear there.
Chlorine does kill cysts in high enough amounts, the amount that one would find in a swimming pool, amounts not suitable for drinking and I was told by another parasitologist that I have conferred with, that the cysts would take about 20 minutes to die in a chlorinated swimming pool.
UV light combined with chlorine treatment has been used for treatment of Giardia infected water.
Pre-filter Water Filter for Sediment Removal
Optional: install a plastic sediment filter 1-1/2" model to remove sediment, $289 includes shipping, ref: www.purewaterexpress.com/wholehouse.htm#3a removes dirt before the water supply enters the reverse osmosis component, providing insurance protection of the RO filter against water main work upstream (or a private well water source containing sediment) sending massive debris into the water treastment system.
Reverse Osmosis RO Treatment Unit Cost
Compact II-2: special high flow membrane, daily production 250 gallons minimum, $1,548 plus shipping from Perris, CA, reference: www.purewaterexpress.com/wholehouse.htm#9.
See REVERSE OSMOSIS WATER TREATMENT for details of reverse osmosis water purification systems and alternative RO products.
Other reverse osmosis, filter, ceramic filter and water treatment products are listed at the end of this article.
Post Reverse-Osmosis RO Water Treatment Processing Equipment Options
Research on Giaria & Cryptosporidium Contaminants in Drinking Water
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