Health risk in agricultural villages practicing wastewater irrigation in central Mexico: perspectives for protection.
Cifuentes E., Blumenthal U., Ruiz-Palacios G., Bennett S., Quigley M.
9,435 individuals participated in a cross-sectional survey in the irrigation districts of the Mezquital Valley (central Mexico). Exposure groups were: 848 households irrigating with untreated wastewater, 544 households irrigating with the effluent from a series of interconnected reservoirs, and 928 households farming with natural rainfall. The unit of analysis was the individual, and the health outcomes included diarrhoeal diseases and Ascaris lumbricoides infection. Water quality was assessed using faecal coliforms (FC) and nematode eggs, as suggested by (WHO, 1989) for the safe use of wastewater in agriculture. Children from households irrigating with untreated wastewater (10(8) FC/100 mL and 135 nematode eggs/L) had a 33% higher risk of diarrhoeal diseases and a fivefold increase in risk of A. lumbricoides infection (OR = 5.71) compared to children from the control group, farming with rainfall. The risk of A. lumbricoides infection in older individuals was even higher (OR = 13.18). The final analysis showed that drinking unboiled water and cultivating vegetables crops were both associated with a higher risk of diarrheal diseases (OR = 1.45 and 2.00); individuals infected with A. lumbricoides infection came mostly from landless households with poorer dwellings and low standards of sanitation (OR = 2.20, 2.23, 1.72 and 1.43, respectively). These results are discussed in the context of health protection measures and policy recommendations.