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Drinking Water Fact Sheet: Drinking Water and the Elderly
Aging is associated with physiological, functional, and behavioral changes that can result in increased vulnerability to biological and chemical contaminants in drinking water. As a group, the elderly are at increased risk of infection and disease from microbial contamination due to many factors, such as reduced immunity, frailty from malnutrition, or existing chronic illness. In addition, decreased liver and kidney function associated with aging affects how the body processes chemicals, and irregularities of the thirst mechanism alter fluid balance. Exposure patterns for the institutionalized elderly may also differ in important ways from patterns in other populations. As a group, the elderly can suffer more severe consequences from infections such as Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7, and are at greater risk of dying from waterborne infections.