Link #84: Some Rivers in Africa Are Toxic Enough to Kill a Human Being!

 

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Link #84: Some Rivers in Africa Are Toxic Enough to Kill a Human Being!

Zambezi_River_at_junction_of_Namibia
Close-up aerial photo of Zambezi River at the junction of Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Image credit: Brian McMorrow cc2.5

Everything on this planet has a good side and a bad side. Africa is a continent that gave birth to one of the oldest civilisations in the world (Egyptian). It is rich in many natural resources that humans depend on. And, it is home to the incredible African Grey Parrots, some of whom can boast of a vocabulary of up to 1,000 words (as explained in our last post).

However, there are also dangers in Africa and one of these is its rivers. Yes, you read right. Some rivers in Africa are dangerous to human beings. For instance, some rivers in South Africa are so toxic that they can kill a human being!

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How Rivers in South Africa Can Kill Humans

Klip_River_Meyerton_Gauteng
Klip River, in Meyerton, Gauteng, near Johannesburg, South Africa. Image credit: International Rivers CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The main reason why some rivers in South Africa are unfit for human use is their toxicity. In fact, the toxicity levels in these rivers located in and around Johannesburg are so high that they can kill a human being wading through them.

This toxicity is a result of high levels of E.coli in the rivers. For instance, Cheetah Bridge, a river in Alexandra, has E.coli levels of 2.4 million per 100 ml. The acceptable level of E.coli is 10,000, which means that this river exceeds the normal levels by a whopping 240 times!

Another river, Kaalspruit, located near Ivory Park, has E.coli levels of about 1.9 million per 100 ml. This means that this river exceeds normal levels by 190 times! What’s worse is that the local authorities judge this river fit for human use. However, they do advise the local population that the water in these rivers is unfit for drinking.


Why Are These South African Rivers So Full of E.coli?

poor_sanitation_africa
Photo by I. Jurga (Sustainable sanitation) cc2.0

The main reason why these rivers have such high levels of E.coli is poor sanitation in surrounding regions. The surrounding regions consist of many informal human colonies without a proper system for the disposal of human waste.

Furthermore, the sewage system of the region is not good enough to do what is required. Effectively, when rain falls in these regions, human refuse is washed into these rivers.


What Is E.coli?

Diverse_e_Coli
Diverse e Coli. PD Image

All this talk about E.coli is most probably making you wonder what it is. E.coli is basically a rod shaped bacterium. It is usually found in the lower intestines of warm blooded organisms. This means that humans carry some amounts of E.coli in their guts!

However, E.coli becomes dangerous to humans in large amounts. Moreover, when E.coli is ingested, it can cause serious food poisoning. Furthermore, E.coli can be found in various forms known as strains.

Certain strains of E.coli can become virulent which causes them to become more dangerous to human beings. E.coli has been known to cause diseases like pneumonia and even meningitis. There is even a strain of E.coli that can cause strokes in humans.

This strain produces a specific type of toxin known as the Shiga Toxin. This toxin causes red blood cells to break apart very quickly which causes clotting. These clots are the reason for strokes.




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Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escherichia_coli
http://listverse.com/2013/10/16/10-bodies-of-water-that-want-you-dead/
http://www.csir.co.za/rhp/state_of_rivers/state_of_umngeni_02/dams.html
http://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/just-how-poisonous-are-gauteng-s-rivers-1.369633#.VM8PcdKUc0Y

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