News Feature | September 24, 2013

Researchers: Don't Drink The Holy Water

By Sara Jerome

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Vampires are not the only ones who should avoid holy water.  The same advice applies for anybody who does not want to get sick. 

New research shows that, in Austria at least, holy water is contaminated with fecal matter. Here is a link to the study, conducted by scientists at Vienna University Medical School's Institute of Hygiene and Applied Immunology, suggesting that holy water is not safe to drink.

In the experiment, scientists analyzed "the water quality at 21 'holy' springs and 18 fonts at churches and chapels at various times of year," Reuters reported. They presented the findings at a conference in Vienna last week. 

The results made it clear that water can be holy without being clean. Less than 15 percent of the water showed no fecal contamination, and none of the springs were clean enough to drink the water. 

The water could make drinkers pretty sick. The water contained "bugs that can cause inflammatory diarrhea," Reuters reported.  

Nitrates were found in the water samples, as well, International Business Times noted

"If ingested, nitrates could cause serious health problems in children under 6 months old and could lead to death if left untreated," the report said, citing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"We need to warn people against drinking from these sources," study researcher Alexander Kirschner said.

In a statement, Kirschner gave a possible explanation for why these water sources were deemed holy in the first place, noting that those designations date back to the Middle Ages. 

"In those days, the quality of the water in towns and cities was generally so poor that people were constantly developing diarrhoea or other diseases as a result. If they then came across a protected spring in the forest that was not as polluted and drank from it for several days, their symptoms would disappear," he said.

There is some irony in that. "Although in those days they were drinking healthier water, given the excellent quality of our drinking water today, the situation is now completely reversed," he said. 

For a report from Water Online on technology for water purification, click here.

Image credit: "Drinking The Holy Water," © 2008 sbszine, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en

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