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Is the Water from Public Drinking Fountains Safe?

The water might be clean, but the source that you are drinking from might not be. Yes, we are referring to public drinking fountains. If you are someone who does not carry bottled water around, these water fountains are probably your go-to when you feel thirsty. Yet, due to poor personal hygiene, these water fountains has become a source of cross-contamination. Continuously touched by hands and occasionally by the mouth of a clueless child, you might actually catch an infection when you drink from it the next time.


Here are some things you are probably not aware about water fountains that might make you think twice the next time you decide to drink from one:


  • Water fountain handles can spread the flu. For example, if someone with a cold had sneezed while using the fountain, you are picking up the virus that stayed on the surface the moment you touch the rim of the fountain. You might get infected if the next thing you touch are your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Just like bus handles and doorknobs, the same goes for these parts of the fountain, which can harbour bacteria or virus of any sort. According to the National Environment Agency(NEA), water fountains could generate water aerosols with undesirable chemicals and Legionella bacteria. With such contaminated water aerosols potentially coming into contact with the general public, they could possibly cause serious health issues such as Legionellosis infection.
  • For water fountains that are located in direct sunlight such as in parks, this creates the perfect environment for algae and mould to grow.


As convenient as it is, it will be hard to ignore the fact that you might be carrying disease-causing viruses on your hands after quenching your thirst from the water fountain. You can choose to wash your hands right after touching the fountain.


As most of us are aware, hand-washing is often said to be the number one defense to combat against the spread of germs. When germs get on to your hands and are not washed off, you are not only putting yourself at risk of infection, but your friend or family member that your hands come into contact with. Up to 80 percent of all infections are transmitted by hands, according to estimates by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So if you are nowhere near a toilet to wash your hands, you should try to refrain from rubbing your face to prevent spreading germs.


You can also bring along your own alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your bag as it contains at least 60% alcohol. This can instantly reduce the germs on your hands, but it is not as effective as hand-washing with soap in eliminating all types of germs.


But if you are still concerned, consider avoiding it to prevent any diseases. Instead, bring your own bottled water and refill it from a water dispenser whenever you are out. Try any of these methods to replace drinking directly from the tap of a water fountain, which can make you fall sick if you are not careful.