Dangerous levels of bacteria found in UK rivers could pose risk to human health

After recent flooding, tests have shown high levels of dangerous bacteria in UK rivers.

Dangerous levels of bacteria found in UK rivers
© Brittany Colette / UNSPLASH
Dangerous levels of bacteria found in UK rivers

After the tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic, people are much more switched on to the dangers of germs in our daily lives. Many are still affected by the virus today, as well as other common contagious illnesses such as norovirus or the flu. However, there has been a surge in ‘disgusting filth and germs’ in the UK thanks to the recent weather.

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The recent flooding in the UK has seen a rise in certain bacteria in river water. This includes types that could cause a risk to human life. Here’s everything you need to know about what is in the water and the risks it poses to your health.

Flooding and bacteria

High levels of dangerous bacteria have been found in UK river waters since the intense flooding caused by Storm Isha and Jocelyn. Water samples were taken from a Surrey housing estate near the River Mole, a street by the River Ouse in York and a Shrewsbury park near the River Severn for a lab analysis. Round Our Way, a climate justice non-profit, commissioned the study in an effort to find out details about the contamination in the water. The findings were worrying.

All three sites contained high levels of bacteria. The amount of Ammonia found was above UK quality thresholds, and E. coli was also detected in high levels. If ingested, this can cause diarrhoea and vomiting. Faecal matter also showed up on the tests. The overall results of the analysis found that the water in both Surrey and York posed a potential risk to human life.

The dangers of bacteria

The director of Round Our Way, Roger Harding, said:

All of us want to feel safe at home and know kids are fine if they go out to play, but these results show the disgusting filth and germs people have been exposed to in recent floods.

He continued, explaining that ‘it shouldn’t need saying, but people should not have to put up with crap flowing into their streets and parks’. This does indeed seem reasonable, but what’s the solution? Well, Harding suggests we need politicians to work on protecting people from floods and protecting the climate - the very reason for the floods in the first place.

Dr Gillian Orrow, a GP in Horley, explained that ‘contact with contaminated flood water can lead to skin and gut infections’:

For example, E. coli bacteria are found in the intestines of healthy people. But if we ingest even small amounts of certain strains of E. coli, it can cause diarrhoea and vomiting.

She goes on to explain that children may be at risk who play near a river that contains the bacteria and don’t wash their hands thoroughly enough.

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Sources used:

Independent: Dangerous levels of bacteria found in flood water from UK rivers

ITV News: 'Disgusting filth': Bacteria with significant risk to human health found in UK river flood waters

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