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Drinking water from a frequently used water cooler may not be especially good for you in fact, there is a chance you’ll come into contact with enough nasty bacteria to cause nausea and diarrhea.

That pleasant bit of news comes from scientists who checked out the contents of ten water coolers at Northeastern University in Boston and discovered four times the federal government’s recommended bacterial content limit. The organism count in frequently used water coolers was as much as 2,000 times the limit. Researchers say bacterial levels that high could pose a problem for infants, the elderly and those people with especially vulnerable immune systems.

The problem appears to stem from the cooler itself. Apparently, the small amount of bacteria in each bottle of water—well below federal limits— adheres to the cooler’s reservoir and spigots. As more and more water bottles are used, the bacteria accumulates.

The researchers advise cleaning water coolers once a month by running at least a half gallon of household bleach through the reservoir and spigots. You can remove any bleach residue by using at least 4 gallons of tap water to rinse out the cooler.


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