Boil water advisory: what to do during a

HOuston became the latest U.S. city to issue a boil water advisory after a Sunday morning power outage at a treatment plant caused water pressure to drop below the level required by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The situation in the Texas city affects the water supply of at least 2.2 million residents.

“We believe the water is safe, but based on regulatory requirements when the pressure drops below 20 psi, we are required to issue a boil water advisory,” tweeted Sunday at the office of the mayor of Houston.

The city is ask people boil water for three minutes before consuming it and remind people to avoid using chilled water and ice from any appliance connected to the water line, such as a refrigerator. City officials are currently testing water across the city to see if anything is growing, they told a news conference. The Texas Environmental Quality Commission hopes to lift the advisory by early Tuesday morning.

Here’s what you need to know about boil water advisories in the United States:

What causes a boil water advisory?

Boil water advisories are put in place when an event has potentially contaminated a public water system. This may include circumstances such as power outages, storms, floods, water main breaks, well problems, loss of water pressure, or loss of sanitization.

Read more: America’s drinking water crisis goes far beyond Flint. There’s no relief in sight

Can you shower or brush your teeth during a boil water advisory?

While a boil water advisory is in effect, the CDC is advising people to boil all water before using it for any purpose, including bathing. Individuals should be careful not to swallow water when showering. Sponge baths are recommended for children.

Residents can brush their teeth with boiled water, or bottled water can also be used as an alternative, according to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH).

All water, even water that has passed through a filter, should be boiled before use.

How long do boil water advisories usually last?

Boil water advisories typically last between 24 and 48 hours, although this may vary depending on the reason the order came into effect.

Are boil water advisories becoming more common?

Although there is no official count of the exact number of boil water advisories issued in 2022 and years past, this year there were boil water advisories in cities such as Detroit, Austin and Laredo, Texas. In Jackson, Miss., alone, mississippi today reports, the city has issued 20 just boil water advisories since Sept. 15. (The city also has a legacy of poor water infrastructure that has seen it live weeks without reliable running water, a circumstance even worse than a boil water advisory.) Meanwhile, about 240,000 ruptures water mains occur every year, disrupting the water supply systems of millions of Americans.

Some of this prevalence is likely due to aging U.S. water infrastructure and extreme weather events, a 2020 article in the JJournal of Public Health Management and Practice Noted. As climate change brings more extreme weather, this second factor may play an increasing role. Hurricane Ian, for example, caused damage to communities in Lee County, Florida. be subject to a boil water advisory in October.

Read more: The Mayor of Jackson, Miss. had a “radical” vision for his city. The water crisis may have put it out of reach

What happens if you drink tap water during a boil water advisory?

Boil water advisories are being put in place because the water in the affected area contains or has the potential to contain germs that could make people sick. If you drink unboiled tap water during a boil water advisory, according to the NYSDOH, your chances of getting sick are still slim, but it’s possible.

Infants, children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems or who have chronic illnesses are most at risk. During these situations, a Texas doctor told ABC News, the water quality can be similar to flood water, making it risky to consume it in any capacity.

If you feel ill after drinking water during such counseling period, you should contact your health care provider. Symptoms of a waterborne illness can include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, cramps, and possibly fever.

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