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Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2010 Mar;82(3):473-7. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.2010.09-0320.

Microbiological effectiveness of disinfecting water by boiling in rural Guatemala.

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Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK.


Boiling is the most common means of treating water in the home and the benchmark against which alternative point-of-use water treatment options must be compared. In a 5-week study in rural Guatemala among 45 households who claimed they always or almost always boiled their drinking water, boiling was associated with a 86.2% reduction in geometric mean thermotolerant coliforms (TTC) (N = 206, P < 0.0001). Despite consistent levels of fecal contamination in source water, 71.2% of stored water samples from self-reported boilers met the World Health Organization guidelines for safe drinking water (0 TTC/100 mL), and 10.7% fell within the commonly accepted low-risk category of (1-10 TTC/100 mL). As actually practiced in the study community, boiling significantly improved the microbiological quality of drinking water, though boiled and stored drinking water is not always free of fecal contaminations.

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