Drinking water incidents due to chemical contamination in England and Wales, 2006-2008.
Contamination of drinking water by microbiological and chemical agents can lead to adverse health effects. In England and Wales, the Chemicals Hazards and Poisons Division (CHaPD) of the Health Protection Agency provides expert advice on the consequences to public health of chemical contamination incidents affecting drinking water. In this study, we extracted data from the National Database on the type and nature of drinking water contamination events reported to the CHaPD between 2006 and 2008. Eighty-two incidents with confirmed chemical contamination were identified. Among the 70 incidents where data was available, 40% (28/70) of incidents related to contamination of drinking water provided by private suppliers, 31% (22/70) were due to contamination occurring close to the point of consumption (i.e. near consumer) and 29% (20/70) related to incidents where public water supplies were identified as the contaminated source. For the majority of incidents, little or no information was available on the critical exposure variables such as duration of contamination and actual or estimates of the population affected. Reassuringly, the levels of exposure in most incidents were considered unlikely to cause serious immediate or long term ill health effects. Recording of exposure data for reported contamination incidents needs to be improved.