Water is a fundamental necessity for life, and access to clean and safe drinking water is a universal right. However, the reality is that millions of people face the alarming consequences of drinking contaminated water. According to the CDC, over 7.2 million Americans fall ill from waterborne diseases.

For a developed superpower, this is not a pleasant statistic to digest. Unfortunately, many other countries have it far worse. In this article, we will look at five alarming consequences that underline the importance of clean water.


1. Waterborne diseases

Waterborne diseases are a significant global health concern that affect millions of people each year. One of the primary ways people can contract waterborne diseases is through the ingestion of water contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms.

Even seemingly clean sources like wells and groundwater can become contaminated. Natural disasters, flooding, or improper well construction can introduce contaminants into these water sources, infecting those who rely on them. Waterborne diseases can include diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, fever, and more.

2. Gastrointestinal Issues

Studies have shown that people can suffer from gastrointestinal illnesses when exposed to contaminated water. The origins of these contaminants can be surprising to people. Researchers have found that pipe breaks in the water distribution system are a common pathway for gastrointestinal diseases.

Sometimes sewage and drinking water pipes are laid at the same level. If the pipes get damaged, there is a high likelihood of sewage contamination occurring. This often leads to conditions like AGI (acute gastrointestinal illness) and vomiting. The sad part is that it can be very difficult to combat such contaminations at an individual level.

By the time you find out, you will have likely consumed significant amounts of contaminated water.

3. Cancer

Often, water contamination can occur due to human error and result in devasting consequences like cancer. There are a number of industries and factories that use harmful chemicals as part of their operations. These include volatile organic compounds such as formaldehyde and benzene.

However, it’s not just factories. Even the U.S. government and the military have had their share of contamination scandals. TorHoerman Law points out the infamous Camp Lejeune incident.

If this is the first time you have heard that name, let us briefly explain. Between the 1950s and the 1980s, the U.S. Marine base ‘Camp Lejeune’ experienced water contamination on an unprecedented scale. Many of the victims developed cancer, including liver cancer, esophageal cancer, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Over a million people were affected by the incident. Toxic chemicals had somehow found their way into the base’s water supply. Unaware, the Marines, officers, staff, and their families would consume it on a daily basis for years.

What’s even more shocking is that Camp Lejeune contaminated water lawsuit cases are still being filed today. People are still dealing with the fallout, even though it isn’t talked about in the media that much these days.

4. Respiratory Issues

Although the connection is not as direct as with gastrointestinal problems, contaminants in water can still potentially impact the respiratory system.

Chemical pollutants present in contaminated water, such as heavy metals and disinfection byproducts, can sometimes evaporate into the air. This can occur when water is used for activities like showering, bathing, or washing dishes.

Inhaling these airborne chemicals can trouble the respiratory tract, leading to coughing or shortness of breath. Additionally, systemic infections can indirectly impact the respiratory system by affecting the body’s overall ability to function properly.

5. Compromised Immune System

Contaminated water often contains pathogenic microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Once pathogens enter the body, the immune system recognizes them as foreign invaders. Immune cells, such as white blood cells (e.g., leukocytes) and macrophages, identify and attempt to neutralize the pathogens.

In cases of persistent or severe infections, the immune system can become exhausted. Continuous activation of the immune response can lead to immune cell dysfunction and fatigue.

As a result, chronic exposure to contaminants suppresses the immune system’s ability to mount an effective defense. This leaves the individual susceptible to further infections.


The consequences of drinking tainted water are not merely theoretical; they are alarmingly real and profoundly impact human health. Contaminated water is a global challenge that demands immediate attention and collective action. From waterborne diseases to the silent threat of compromised immune systems, contaminated water takes a heavy toll on people worldwide.

The solutions lie in our ability to prioritize access to clean drinking water and invest in water treatment. We also need to educate communities about the importance of water quality and hygiene practices.