International Conference on Rain Water Cistern Systems
St Thomas, Virgin
Islands - June, 1984
E: Quality Considerations
Use Of Rainwater For
Drinking Purposes: Its Health Implications
C.K. Li, E.J. Schiller
The effects on health from drinking water have long been of concern to sanitary
engineers, epidemiologists and public health researchers. Initially the problem
was biological contamination; in the last two decades attention has shifted to
toxic chemicals and, more recently, to the contribution of essential elements
from drinking water.
These concerns led to several studies on the relationship between drinking
water and health, however only few have focused on the effect of the removal of
essential substances occurring naturally in drinking waters, as in desalinized
or demineralized waters, a situation close to that facing the use of rainwater.
Adverse health effects can arise in three ways: 1) from deficiency of elements
in rainwater, particularly in areas where mineral intake from diet may be deficient,
2) from leaching into rainwater of toxic substances present in materials used
for storage distribution,, and 3) from contamination by atmospheric pollutants.
After reviewing the literature, the authors discuss the present state of knowledge
on the subject. It is concluded that epidemiological and health monitoring studies
are needed to improve our knowledge of the effects from prolonged use of rainwater
and to suggest ways of prevention through engineering innovations and nutritional
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