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Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Health

Water sanitation and hygiene are critical to health, survival, and development. Many countries are challenged in providing adequate sanitation for their entire populations, leaving people at risk for water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)-related diseases. Throughout the world, an estimated 4.5 billion people lack access to safely managed sanitation (WHO/UNICEF).

In the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering, we are developing and evaluating strategies to ensure that water is safe to drink and use in our daily lives both locally and abroad.

Research Highlights

Protecting Drinking Water from Aging Infrastructure and Climate Change

In cities across the U.S., water systems are under threat as aging infrastructure is being stressed by climate change. To better understand where we should apply public health resources, Abel Wolman Professor in Water and Public Health Kellogg Schwab, PhD, MSPH, and assistant scientist Natalie Exum, PhD ’16, MS, received funding from a Bloomberg American Health Initiative Spark Award to study what’s going on in the pipes—and what’s coming out of our faucets. Learn more (video).

A Mobile Data Collection Platform Helps Reveal the Prevalence of a Neglected Tropical Disease

In sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 200 million people are infected with the parasitic worms that cause schistosomiasis. Released by freshwater snails, the worms penetrate the skin of people who bathe in water contaminated by human sewage. The disease can cause liver damage, kidney failure, bladder cancer and infertility if left untreated. Working with the Performance Monitoring and Accountability 2020 project, Natalie Exum, PhD ’16, MS, an assistant scientist in Environmental Health and Engineering, is putting mobile technology in the hands of local data collectors to help determine the disease’s prevalence in Uganda. Learn More.

An Assessment of Drinking Water in the Peruvian Amazon

The Peruvian Amazon, one of the world’s most biodiverse regions, is subject to pressure from climate change, deforestation, mining, and urbanization, with translational impacts on water quality, ecosystems, and human health. Shifts in the water cycle due to changes in climate or land use threaten ecosystem stability, food security, economic status, and human health. Recent surges in developmental activities, including logging, agriculture, petrochemical operations, and mining, have caused increases in deforestation and external impacts. These changes can expose humans to pathogens and contaminants (e.g., heavy metals and pesticides) causing acute and chronic illness and water-related, vector-borne disease (e.g., malaria).

A team of Hopkins researchers traveled to the Peruvian rainforest to conduct an assessment of the quality of drinking water utilized by some of these villages to gain understanding of the overall safety of available potable water sources as a first step towards developing a broader water research platform. This study generated an enhanced evaluation of the sources and types of drinking water contaminants in the Peruvian Amazon. Learn more.

Associated Faculty

 *Denotes faculty who are accepting PhD students.