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After 4 yrs, I have not been ill...knock on wood. I avoid getting face in the shower water. I use purchased face wipes. I soak all fruits and vegetables in solution to sterilize. I use purchased water with anticeptic mouth wash added to brush teeth. I do wash dishes in regular water and air dry. I avoid all street food.

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Getting ready for my first stay in Ajijic. I have read that one should be careful when showering not to get water in his mouth. It got me wondering about a few things, and I am not a germ-a-phobe:

1) If you wash hands with soap and tap water, are the hands really clean.

2) When showering to you need to be concerned about getting water in your eyes?

3) Do you use tap water for washing dishes, if not what precautions do you take?

I realize this may seem like silly questions to some, but I'd appreciate any suggestions, and I will not be offended by anyone wanting to poke fun.

/

"1) If you wash hands with soap and tap water, are the hands really clean. "

For most people, no.

Consider surgeon's washing procedures. Ordinary soaps and detergents do not kill microbes - they only help remove grease, oil, and dirt (that hold the microbes). Typical women have about 250 species of bacteria on their hands. USDA/CDC/FDA studies show that water rinses and thorough scrub brushing removes 97% of typical microbes from fruit and veg - so using soap is not the magic cure-all people imagine.

Expert advice says to use an antibacterial soap (with triclosan) and scrub with soapy suds, vigorously, for 20 full seconds. Next time you wash your hands, count to 20, 0ne thousand one, onethousand 2, one thousand 3... and see how long you actually wash. 20 seconds is surprisingly long.

Since almost no one washes their hands this way (watch people in airport bathrooms): hand washing is generally not effective. Best advice is to wash hands properly after using the bathroom and before eating, and do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.

"2) When showering to you need to be concerned about getting water in your eyes? "

The microbiological answer says we need to know if you are using city tap water treated with chlorine or if you are using well water from a pozo that draws water from the same level as the fosa septicas, sumidoros, and other household pits for the neighborhood's waste. Consider that in many rural areas, you can dose a toilet with blue dye, flush it, and get blue water from the tap within an hour.

Mexican cities with good residual chlorine levels can provide good quality tap water at the meter - at 97% rates found in past studies. Alternately, those same studies show that about 25% of Mexican households have microbial contamination introduced between the meter and the kitchen sink tap. This means that if you use treated city water, and your cistern and tinaco are clean, and you ensure clean household plumbing by routine additions of bleach (1/2 cup per 110L/275 gal tinaco), then the water is likely fine.

UV sterilizers can kill or maim pretty much all microbes, spores, and cysts, as long as: the residence time in the sterilizer is sufficiently long (no high flows), and if the UV bulb is less than a year old, and if the sleeve or UV bulb envelope is clean. Note that the water from a purifying system is no cleaner than the final spigot, where only some purifier's spigots are made of antibacterial materials.

When thinking about kitchens, the salad, fruit and veg, and raw meat handling practices are far more important. Human excrement sewage waste and pig waste are very common fertilizers in Mexico, making it difficult to get produce and fruit clean - especially things that cannot be scrubbed, like spinach or lettuce. Microdyne and other soaks give us emotional comfort, but in reality, they only reduce the typical counts of pathological microbes by 80% on fruit and veg, and they do not work on 20%-50% of key pathogens like salmonella typhii. This means eating salads at a restaurant is likely our biggest source of GI problems. Dilute bleach solutions (1:20 - 1:50) are the best proven solutions for soaking fruit and veg. - as they kill cryptosporids like giardia (unlike bacdyne), they kill salmonella, and pretty much all pathogens we encounter.

This still leaves the common problem of 60% of Mexican meats having salmonella contamination (based on past CDC studies). This means that the raw meat that touches cutting boards, your hands, knives, plates, grilling forks, etc contaminates these things with salmonella, unless you bleach them... Touching raw meat contaminates our hands, which then often touch the fridge handle or faucet tap handles....

Water borne contamination is not our major risk for GI upsets. Past CDC and university microbiological studies have shown that women's bathrooms are the biggest sources of pathological microbes in homes - especially the toilet handle, sink tap handles, door handle, and light switches.

The second major area of home microbial-based illness is in the kitchen of a person who likes to wipe things down - without using a disinfectant every time.

The third major area is the laundry, where 30% typical machines carry fecal bacteria from dirty clothes - where the user does not use bleach as their last load. People who use bleach in first and last loads, effectively disinfect their machines, while people who do not use bleach leave lots of microbes multiplying in the piping and pump when the machine sits unused.

The final major source of home pathogenic microbial illnesses is the folks who dry their dishes with a dish cloth. The damp cloths are marvelous at spreading contamination from one dish to all the other subsequent dishes. Air dry instead.

Finally, carbon filters do nothing to remove microbes, instead they provide condos for the microbes to live and multiply and particulate filters need to filter down to the 0.2 - 0.45 um (micron) range to remove pathogens, according to decades of lab tests. This level of filtration is not practical for producing household water, which is why RO, or UV, or ozone, or electrolysis, or distillation (boiling), or bleach are used to produce drinking water.

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After 5 years I have not been ill either. I wash my face in the shower. I do not use purchased face wipes. I do soak most fruits and vegetables that I eat raw in solution. I use purchased water to drink and make coffee. I brush my teeth with water from the faucet. I wash dishes in regular water and air dry. I eat street food from some places where I observe food handling practices first—most importantly that the person who handles food is not handling money.

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You missed the point bacteria can't live in that environment. I don't want to change the topic to tequila but if to give me your phone number by private message I will call you. I am in the us.

No, I got your point. The article plainly states that Shigella can live in tequila; it would have to be introduced during bottling or after in the process.

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This is getting silly. The long article posted goes way beyond water. I have been here for 10 years, and I do everything like Xena. The only time I got sick was at the defunct tomale place (we think), from something in my food that was handled by unwashed hands, and I got amoebas... which just about killed me for two weeks. I have never been ill from stomach problems since. I LOVE street food.

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Xena makes a good point about coffee makers--they do not boil the water and therefore you must use either UV treated or bottled water.

Using a disinfectant for washing produce is very important.

Also ask for well cooked meats and poultry (especially ground meats). This is especially true in hotter weather when meats can sit out too long in restaurant kitchens and in their ride to the restaurant. High heat and longer cooking times can kill off much of the bacteria.

Food borne illnesses in Mexico can be very very dangerous especially to newbies or anyone whose system is anyway compromised.

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Guest verchiel

We moved into our house 8 years ago and were happy to see that we had a purification system with a UV light to kill the bad stuff in the water. Six months in, we called the installer to come and change the filter, as the former owner had advised us to do. The man came and told us that the water purification system had never been turned on and, in fact, we had been drinking the water straight from our aljibe for six straight months. We had never been sick, and the water tasted fine as far as we were concerned.

Ajijic has a modern water treatment plant. The problem is that there is no neighborhood pressurization stations to regulate the flow of the water from the treatment plant to your tap. Rather, the water goes into your aljibe (or tinacos), and then goes to your tap. It sits in old city water lines for hours at a time before it gets to your aljibe, too, and agricultural chemicals and bacteria leach into the water. However, we never had a problem and we were drinking the damn stuff!

So no worries about bathing, brushing teeth and all that. But yes, do purify your water. By the way, I do not rinse off my veggies in chemicals, either - I just give them a good bath in plain old treated water and have never had a problem. Maybe I have a cast-iron stomach?

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Not to be paranoid, but when using public transportation always wash your hands after getting down from the bus. Everyone touches those hand rails. Keep your hands away from your mouth, nose and eyes. If you have to touch or rub your face, use the back of the hand. And, get a flu shot.

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If you plan to use UV to sterilize your water, it is critical that you keep the filters before it effective. If the water has small particles in it, the particles will shade some of the pathogens in the water from the UV light and they will continue unharmed. Likewise it is important to keep an eye on the number of hours the UV light has been in use. Their UV output diminishes over time and they become less effective even though they are lighted and show that blue light.

This is true on both whole house systems and small under sink systems.

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I don't use a carbon filter to remove microbes. The small holes in the carbon/charcoal filters are the point of using one. You must maintain any filter even treated paper filters can grow stuff. I replace my pleated, carbon filters every six months and lightbulb every year. I also look at my bulb everyday to make sure it is still working. More sand more filters but I wouldn't run any filter more than six months. I also shock my tanks and pipes with chlorine just before I change the filters. Some people open there filters every month and clean the housings and rinse off the filters. I don't have to in Lower central Ajijic. Your Mileage may vary as they say. My numbers are for three people in a house and Casita. Gardens and Pool use not filtered not treated water from before the filters. I use to filter but it raised my filter replacement to three times a year for no reason.

This is a good topic for all folks here. Best to know and than you can decide what precautions you want to take or maybe none.....

Nobody answered my question about RO water tasting terrible. Does it? We added mineral water to it than it was OK in our opinions.

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Thank you Snowyco for the very interesting and useful post.

I can attest - after renting three Mexican houses here & in Guadalajara - to the fact that they usually have no water purifying or filtration system, and the little screens on taps will up with sand and have to be cleaned. In Guadalajara we even had to put in our own expensive pressure system. The original poster's concerns are perfectly legitimate especially for those with compromised immune systems, which is a lot of the population in this town (age and illness).

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Does the RO water taste terrible? In Santa Barbara they use nukes and RO to desal the ocean water. It tasted terrible. We added mineral water so we could drink it. I use fiber/carbon/UV but I don't want to ruin thetaste. I did take a sample of Ajijic water up north to my friends chemical lab and he gave it very high ratingfor quality and taste. I think the carbon filter does more than just clean up odors or we have pretty good water in the village.Z

We use an under the kitchen sink RO system that runs through a charcoal filter before and after the RO filtration and the water tastes great. As far as the comments about Santa Barbara water - SB does not use the RO desalination plant that was built. The SB desal plant ran for two months in 1991 the year it was constructed. It has been moth balled since. Even when the SB RO system ran for its two month test it would have only been able to supply 20% of water demand for the city. It is unlikely that whatever water you tasted in SB was RO water. As far as the RO system being powered by "nukes" , Diablo Canyon nuclear facility is in San Luis Obispo county and is owned by PG&E. Santa Barbara city electricity is serviced by Southern California Edison. SCE does have a defunct nuclear facility at San Onofre, but that is in the San Diego area and is being decommissioned. Nuclear energy supplies less than 10% of California's electricity now that San Onofre is offline. When Onofre was online nuclear energy accounted for about 16% of California's total energy demand.

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Not to be paranoid, but when using public transportation always wash your hands after getting down from the bus. Everyone touches those hand rails. Keep your hands away from your mouth, nose and eyes. If you have to touch or rub your face, use the back of the hand. And, get a flu shot.

Don't forget those armrests at the movie theatre and ballet... forget the darned bathroom door handles!

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After washing your hands in a public bathroom (as in a restaurant), grab some paper towel to open the door and exit, as you don't know what the guy before you failed to do.

This is exactly why I mentioned the armrests. God only knows what's on those, so unless you bring paper towels into the theatre, forget trying to keep clean by towelling the door handles...

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Xena makes a good point about coffee makers--they do not boil the water and therefore you must use either UV treated or bottled water.

And we are at 5000 feet so water boils at 190 F not 212 F so you want to boil much longer if you are using a slow boil at sea level as a reference.

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And we are at 5000 feet so water boils at 190 F not 212 F so you want to boil much longer if you are using a slow boil at sea level as a reference.

Mr. Coffee's brief boiling is enough to kill fecal coliforms at Chapala altitudes, which makes it good for treated tap water, but not enough if you are drinking untreated stream, lake, or river wate. Extensive studies by Colorado State University researchers found that bringing water to the boiling point of water high in the Colorado Rockies, 185º F, showed that even 160ºF kills common pathogenic bacteria. If you have deer feces in your water that includes tough cryptosporids like giardia, then boil for 3 minutes at high altitudes. The Mr. Coffee style units briefly boil the water in a coil at the bottom, underneath the pot, to create their "pumping action" that moves the water from the tank up to the grounds. This boiling is enough to kill fecal coliform bacteria, even at Chapala altitudes, but this boiling is to short too kill cryptosporids in untreated raw water.

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Thank you Snowyco for your well thought out and accurate answer. You saved me from posting my usual response to these questions which come up every fall when newcomers move into the area. Yes, I know we will hear from many residents who claim they drink street water right out of the yard hose and never get sick, However, there are many people here who do not have that type of immune systems; many here are elderly,or have a compromised immune system from other underlying conditions.

Also many never change their filters and UV lights. We have several

extra filters, change our UV often, have an expensive zeolite filtering sysyem and an undersink reverse osmosis system that we monitor carefully. I worked with CDC when we lived in the states when many did not survive the Crytpto Sporidium outbreak in the midwest and can attest to what happens when one is exposed to water borne diseases when their immune system is compromised. We live in Riberas where the water is tan if untreated. Our filters need to be changed every two weeks due to the solid particles in the water. In addition, years ago many prospectors mined for gold in this area utilizing arsnic which can leach into the wells for many years after it is used. If you are worried, do not forget about ice that you get in restaurants, always ask if it is filtered water. Or carry your own own bottle, or drinks made with water when eating out. Avoid salads or fresh veggies as well. Good Luck, stay well.

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When I lived in Riberas I had to take the screen off my incoming water for the washing machine. If not it would plug up in one washer load. Also took the screen off the faucet in the kitchen. Didn't do the bathroom sinks as there was not nearly the amount of water coming thru those screens as in the kitchen.

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And then, there's "filthy lucre". Money is the worst. You don't want the food handler to also be the money handler.

Microdyn is cheaper than medical costs. Wash those veggies.

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Man, I just walked all over the WalMart looking for BacDyn or MicroDyn. Anyone know for sure where they hide it?

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Microdyne is usually in the vegetable department of most grocery stores.

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But that's NOB thinking. I'd like to know where it's actually been seen at WalMart, because I just scoured that section moments ago. Now, being a male, it's quite possible that I can't see the obvious, just like when I'm looking in the fridge. I can go to a local abarrote, but I'd like to know for those times when I don't want to hit two stores.

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