Murray River water, raised cyanobacterial cell counts, and gastrointestinal and dermatological symptoms

O. El Saadi, A. J. Esterman, S. Cameron, D. M. Roder

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    Objective: To investigate whether exposure to Murray River and allied water sources during a period of raised cyanobacterial cell counts was associated with gastrointestinal and dermatological symptoms. Design: A case-control study selecting gastrointestinal and dermatological cases and controls from subjects attending 21 general-practitioners in eight Murray River towns. The association between the proportion of consultations for such symptoms and mean log cyanobacterial count was also examined. Subjects: 102 gastrointestinal cases, 86 dermatological cases and 132 controls. Main outcome measure: The relative odds of gastrointestinal and dermatological symptoms, respectively, as opposed to no such symptoms, according to water-contact history during the week preceding the medical consultation. Results: After adjusting for concurrent risk factors, subjects drinking chlorinated river water rather than rain water had a raised risk of gastrointestinal symptoms (P = 0.008), and those using untreated river water for domestic purposes rather than rain water had a raised risk of gastrointestinal (P = 0.034) and of dermatological (P = 0.048) symptoms. The proportion of consultations for gastrointestinal and dermatological symptoms correlated on a weekly basis with the mean log cyanobacterial cell count, although statistical significance was not achieved for the correlation with dermatological consultations or for separate reaches of the river. Conclusions: The raised risks of gastrointestinal and dermatological symptoms in those using Murray River water for drinking and other domestic purposes are consistent with causal relationships. However, the evidence for adverse health effects is, at best, only suggestive. Further research is indicated.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)122-125
    Number of pages4
    JournalMedical Journal of Australia
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1995

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Medicine(all)

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