As a company and as employees, we at Spyglass are often asked why create a company dedicated to water and the information about its quality. Aside from a significant business opportunity, we believe the quality of water affects the quality of lives—domestically and globally—in both the short and long term.
The short-term impact of poor water quality is well noted. The World Health Organizations (WHO) reported
an estimated 9.1% of the global disease burden is associated with water-related illnesses. Domestically, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates
that the healthcare costs associated with just three
waterborne diseases could be over $500 million annually. In California, residents and tourists account
for over 150 million day visits to beaches and shorelines translating into $10 billion annually, and each day that a beach is closed due to bacterial contamination results in a significant financial impact to the economy.
Now emerging in the news is the possibility that waterborne bacterial infections have long-term ramifications. In the recent edition of Scientific American
, Maryn McKenna writes about the possible long-term effects. While this article is entitled “Food Poisoning’s Hidden Legacy,” a significant portion of the article focuses on a multi-year study of a community affected by waterborne bacteria. In May 2000, the aquifer of Walkerton, Ontario, Canada
was contaminated with E. coli
O157 and Campylobacter
, and approximately half of the town’s population (> 2,300 people) soon fell ill. A 2008 governmental study
of this community found that residents who endured several days of illness were now 210% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than the residents who did not become ill. In this same comparison, the affected residents were at a 340% greater risk of kidney problems. The initial costs associated with this event were estimated at $150 millions and this number will surely increase as healthcare costs associated with these long-term effects are tallied.
While further research is required, the Walkerton study suggests that the health and economic impact goes well beyond any initial acute illness. At Spyglass, our mission is to minimize the impact of these waterborne pathogens through rapid, accurate detection. Spyglass strives to enable water resource managers and researchers in assessing the public exposure risk to harmful microbes and toxins. With early detection, health can be safeguarded and economy can be preserved: two excellent reasons for creating a company based on water quality.
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