May 28, 2009

Private wells should be tested annually

Private well water in the United States should be tested annually -- and in some cases more often than that -- the American Academy of Pediatrics advises.

Researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health, took a lead role in working with the AAP to develop the recommendations on what parents should do if their children drink well water.

The policy statement and technical report, scheduled to be published in the June issue of Pediatrics, call for annual well testing -- especially for nitrate and microorganisms such as coliform bacteria -- which can indicate sewage has contaminated the well.

The recommendations point out circumstances when additional testing should occur, including testing when there is a new infant in the house or if the well is subjected to structural damage.

Children are especially vulnerable to waterborne illnesses that may come from contaminated wells, lead author Dr. Walter J. Rogan said in a statement.

Nitrate, which comes from sewage or fertilizer, is the most common contaminant in wells and can be a problem for infants under 3 months who can not metabolize nitrate, Rogan said.

Water with a nitrate concentration of more than 1 milligram per liter should not be used to prepare infant formula or given to a child younger than age 1, the recommendations said.