Water-Chlorinating Device Keeps Diarrhea Away

Using a device that automatically chlorinates water at public taps, scientists in Bangladesh and the US have managed to reduce child diarrhea by almost a quarter in urban Bangladesh.

AsianScientist (Aug. 29, 2019) – In a study published in The Lancet Global Health journal, an international team of researchers has invented technology to chlorinate water at doses acceptable to local communities in urban Bangladesh. This has reduced the incidence of diarrheal diseases in the areas studied.

Clean water is still a major problem in poor urban communities in low-income countries, where contamination by bacteria can lead to high rates of diseases such as cholera and typhoid. Worldwide, an estimated one billion people who have access to piped water are drinking water that does not meet international safety standards.

Most previous research has focused on household-level water treatment interventions that require people to calculate the correct dosage and add their own chlorine daily. However, these strategies have had low uptake and failed to reduce diarrhea, partly because they deliver a chlorine dose that makes chlorinated water taste and smell unpleasant.

In this study, a device created by researchers in Bangladesh and the US dispensed a low chlorine dose into tap water. This resulted in increased taste acceptability and achieved high uptake while still improving drinking water quality.

Between July 2015 and November 2015, 920 households with at least one child under the age of five years were assigned to the chlorine treatment or control groups. Every 2-3 months during the 14-month follow up period, caregiver-reported child diarrhea was measured alongside household and tap water quality, child weight, acute respiratory illness and the presence of sufficient chlorine.

The results showed that, over 14 months, 7.5 percent of children in the treatment group experienced diarrhea, as compared to ten percent in the control group. Importantly, the intervention had the largest health benefits among children in Dhaka, reducing diarrhea by 34 percent compared to seven percent in Tongi. The authors speculate that this variation in effect probably resulted from the poorer water quality in Dhaka at the start of the study.

Despite these achievements, the study has some limitations. For example, diarrhea episodes were based on caregiver-reported data, which might not accurately represent children’s illness. Also, study participants may have drunk water from other sources, although less than four percent of respondents reported doing so.

The article can be found at: Pickering et al. (2019) Effect of in-line Drinking Water Chlorination at the Point of Collection on Child Diarrhea in Urban Bangladesh: A Double-blind, Cluster-randomised Controlled Trial.


Source: The Lancet; Photo: Pixabay.
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