According to Beverage Marketing, Americans are consuming water in greater quantities than ever before, drinking 1.2 times more water than they were a decade ago. A common place many adults may rely on to quench their thirst is the office water cooler. These shared water coolers can become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and other contaminants.
A study conducted by the Quebec Public Health Center found that 28% of the water dispenser samples from workplaces were contaminated by a least one coliform or indicator bacterium and or at least one pathogenic bacterium.
The New York Daily News described the potential dangers of workplace water coolers: “They may be the quintessential “gathering place,” but they’re also a big threat to staying healthy," says David Fowler, who works for Wellness Enterprises. “Water coolers are a rising concern,” he continued. “Someone has to handle the jug and stick the jug into the cooler itself. And the little spout and the internal mechanism are breeding ground for viruses and bacteria. Plus, people are always shoving their plastic bottles right up to the spout to fill them - and for all you know, some of these people may be coming down with a flu the next day.”
“Whereas microbiological standards exist for bottled water, the same product once installed on a dispenser is generally not regulated and is rarely controlled,” Fowler said. Besides potential contamination when cleaning the jug, many that own a water cooler don't know proper cleaning procedures. “As for the participants in our study, only 44% of those possessing water coolers in residences and 36% of those possessing water coolers in workplaces had been informed of the necessity of cleaning the equipment, let alone how to do it.”
The study concluded, “We should be cognizant of the quality of the water dispensed from water coolers. Although it is possible to manufacture water dispensers which are less likely to become contaminated, vendors and suppliers of water dispensers should impress on their clients the need for regular maintenance of the equipment. In addition, studies determining the health impact of drinking water from dispensers should be undertaken, and public health authorities should be made aware of water dispensers as a possible source of contamination when investigating food- or water-related epidemics.”
In offices, there are an estimated 2.7 million germs on bottled water coolers. One way to limit the amount of germs is by washing the outside of the container regularly with ozonated water. Additionally, washing the inside of the container with ozonated water will oxidize bacteria and other harmful substances.
An alternative that many may use to clean water coolers is vinegar or bleach. This could leave behind a taste in the bottle and create a strong smell in the workplace. Ozone avoids both concerns because it is 3,000 times more effective than bleach and leaves no residual chemical behind.
The use of ozone with water coolers has its own set of benefits. According to WQP, these include:
- Improving taste
- Increasing storage life
- Maintaining a microbe-free environment
- Complying with federal and local health regulations
Consumer Focus recommended to BBC News that the exterior of water coolers should be cleaned once a week. In addition, they said bottle-supplied machines should be cleaned internally every three months, while plumbed-in versions should have their filters changed every six months.
Keep in mind, over time ozone could break down plastics or other materials. To learn more about the ozone resistance levels here.
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