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Environ Sci Technol. 2015 Feb 3;49(3):1912-20. doi: 10.1021/es505555f. Epub 2015 Jan 20.

Hand-to-mouth contacts result in greater ingestion of feces than dietary water consumption in Tanzania: a quantitative fecal exposure assessment model.

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Environmental and Water Studies, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University , Stanford, California 94305, United States.


Diarrheal diseases kill 1800 children under the age of five die each day, and nearly half of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Contaminated drinking water and hands are two important environmental transmission routes of diarrhea-causing pathogens to young children in low-income countries. The objective of this research is to evaluate the relative contribution of these two major exposure pathways in a low-income country setting. A Monte Carlo simulation was used to model the amount of human feces ingested by children under five years old from exposure via hand-to-mouth contacts and stored drinking water ingestion in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. Child specific exposure data were obtained from the USEPA 2011 Exposure Factors Handbook, and fecal contamination was estimated using hand rinse and stored water fecal indicator bacteria concentrations from over 1200 Tanzanian households. The model outcome is a distribution of a child's daily dose of feces via each exposure route. The model results show that Tanzanian children ingest a significantly greater amount of feces each day from hand-to-mouth contacts than from drinking water, which may help elucidate why interventions focused on water without also addressing hygiene often see little to no effect on reported incidence of diarrhea.

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