Public Drinking Fountains

ImageModern public drinking fountains, invented in the early 20th century, were intended to provide more hygienic access to drinking water. More recently, studies have concluded that public drinking fountains are germ-laden devices. In 2005, the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), a nonprofit organization involved in public health and safety awareness, reported that bacteria levels on surfaces of school drinking fountains were unsafe. Because they are no routinely disinfected, the damp areas on and around water fountains are perfect breeding grounds for different types of germs, bacteria and viruses.


The 2005 NSF study reported 2.7 million bacteria cells per square inch on school water fountains, the highest bacteria count for all tested surfaces. Two harmful types of bacteria are commonly detected on public water fountain surfaces: E. coli and coliform. Exposure to these bacteria can result in stomachache, headache, vomiting and severe diarrhea. To lower the risk of contamination, Highlight Health Network recommends running the water in a public fountain for at least 15 seconds before drinking.


Viruses can survive for only a short time outside the body and quickly die on surfaces like a water fountain, unless another live host arrives. Viruses are expelled from the body though sneezing, spitting or coughing. People with colds or flu require water to stay hydrated, and if someone coughs or sneezes while at a public drinking fountain, the virus germs can attach themselves to the surface of fountain for the next person to pick up. Viruses are responsible for a multitude of illnesses including colds and many types of flu. 


As a reminder to you and those who have children attending public schools; it’s highly recommended by the Highlight Health Network to run the water in a public fountain for at least 15 seconds before drinking. 


– Renix Graham, III

“Water is the only drink for a wise man.” -Henry David Thoreau

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