Keywords: codes of health practice, guidelines, contaminant concentrations, public health risks, groundwater contamination, water pollution, water quality, drinking water, surface water, chemical pesticides, fertilizers, industrial wastes
Contamination of groundwater and the risk to human health
Groundwater is a major source of drinking water in many parts of the world. In industrialised countries, there is increasing concern that groundwater reserves are being contaminated by industrial effluents and the chemical pesticides and fertilizers used in intensive farming. This paper compares some of the existing guidelines for acceptable concentrations of certain common contaminants in drinking water, groundwater and surface water, with reference to their potential effect on human health. The difficulty of establishing, true causal relationships is highlighted, and policy options for the protection of groundwater as a source of water for human consumption are discussed. The problem of contaminated groundwater can really be solved only by prevention, which will require the effective enforcement of stricter controls both on the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers and on the discharge (both deliberate and accidental) of industrial wastes.