We Will All Die!

I know it’s that most hopeful time of year, but a recent New York Times article prompted a less than hopeful reaction from me: we will all die! Actuaries work hard to determine when this might occur for each of us, and epidemiologists work hard to understand how it is we die. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the leading cause of death in 2006 was heart disease, claiming 631,636 lives. Following were cancer at 559,888, stroke at 137,119, chronic respiratory diseases at 124,583, and accidents at 121,599.
As we look at these, only cancer could be linked to drinking water. But according to the National Cancer Institute, the leading causes of cancer are aging (Whoa! Don’t get old!), tobacco use, sunlight, and ionizing radiation. No drinking water.
According to the United Nations, about 1,500,000 children die each year from waterborne disease. The US proportion of this staggering number would be about 75,000. But this didn’t make this list in the USA. It doesn’t happen here because of modern water and wastewater treatment practices.
You surely wouldn’t get that impression from the NYT article. Instead, we are bombarded with statistics about how terrible tap water in the US. The statistic that is plainly absent is deaths from waterborne disease – because numbers that low are good news, and not fit for the NYT. No, only doom and gloom are relevant: we will all die!
But hats off today to the men and women of the water and wastewater industry: you saved over 75,000 lives last year. Thank you! And don’t expect to be congratulated by the NYT.

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