Evolution of regulatory targets for drinking water quality

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The last century has been marked by major advances in the understanding of microbial disease risks from water supplies and significant changes in expectations of drinking water safety. The focus of drinking water quality regulation has moved progressively from simple prevention of detectable waterborne outbreaks towards adoption of health-based targets that aim to reduce infection and disease to a level well below detection limits at the community level. This review outlines the changes in understanding of community disease and waterborne risks that prompted development of these targets, and also describes their underlying assumptions and current context. Issues regarding the appropriateness of selected target values, and how continuing changes in knowledge and practice may influence their evolution, are also discussed.

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