Health officials cite tap water risks, offer safety tips
BOSTON -- Health officials are warning the approximately 2 million people affected by the Weston water main break not to use regular tap water until repairs are complete, and the whole system gets flushed out.
“Drinking, cooking, making ice, washing fruits and vegetables... People need to understand that it's not that we know it's contaminated. It's just that there could be parasitic infection,” said Dr. Lauren Smith of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Parasites in the backup water supply could cause stomach flu-type symptoms.
It typically takes about seven days for symptoms of Giardia or Cryptosporidium infection to appear, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. These symptoms could include stomach cramps, nausea, and diarrhea, according to the department. (More information)
Yet since the symptoms don’t become evident for another week, one wouldn’t be able to tell if he or she had consumed tainted water.
"If you think that you've drank the water, you should not do anything differently. If you have any immunocompromised, like under active cancer therapy or infants or you're elderly, and you develop symptoms, you may call your physician or health care provider. For most people, if you're asymptomatic, there's nothing to worry about," said Dr. Richard Zane of Brigham and Women's Hospital on health risks posed by the current tap water. (Hear more tap water safety tips from Dr. Zane)
"Already today, I have seen three orthodontic patients who have cleaned their retainers in boiling water, and the retainers shrunk! Don't clean retainers in boiling water, make sure water at room temperature," Jeffrey Lowenstein, DMD, from Wellesley wrote to 7NEWS.
WATER MAIN BREAK RESOURCES
On the leak
On the 'boil-water' order
Officials urge the public to use bottled or boiled water until tests can be completed. The MWRA has put out some guidelines on what the public should and should not do with the water that's coming through the tap when a ‘boil-water' order is in effect. (Read 'Boil-water' order FAQ)
"Ideally, use boiled for hand washing. If that is not available, you may use that but use a hand sanitizer afterwards,” said Dr. Smith.
The water is fine for bathing and showering, but try to keep kids from drinking the tub water, experts say.
“The main people we want to concentrate on food handlers, childcare givers or those who interact with anyone with increase chance of infection,” said Dr. Smith.
Dr. Zane added, "The water is potentially contaminated and not necessarily contaminated. Water standards in the United States are exceptionally high."
State officials are requesting assistance from FEMA to get more bottled water.
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