Water fountain germs

Just read a book called Did you Just eat That? by a Paul Dawson. In it, he discusses how many germs you can get by sharing popcorn, hand driers in bathrooms, etc.
he didn’t mention water fountains. I do use these, should I be worried?

People love getting your attention by pointing out how many germs are present on the various items you interact with on a daily basis. But have you ever noticed that in spite of the existence of all these germs, you aren’t sick all the time?

Your immune system is on your side. It’s constantly fending off invaders on a moment-by-moment basis. As long as you don’t test it with extreme frequency and/or with extremely dangerous germs, you’re gonna be fine.

It depends on whether you sip the stream that arcs up in the air, or just put your mouth on the nozzle Homer Simpson style.

And whether others use the fountain the same way.

I suspect that even if a person hovers with their mouth over the nozzle (instead of suckling it), some amount of backwash is inevitable and will contaminate the fountain surfaces with whatever germs they’ve got.

Good point, so I guess either way you should not be Homer Simpson.


You’re getting more germs by touching the control lever, where dozens of other people have put their dirty hands. (Though germs on the outside of your hand are less serious than those inside your mouth.)

Also, it depends on how often the water fountain is cleaned & maintained. I once saw them cleaning the internals of a water fountain at work. The amount of algae & mold growing inside there in the cooler was really disgusting. Even though the water was chlorinated, I avoided it for a while.

True, but as long as you don’t swallow the first bit of water, is that really a concern? You aren’t drinking off the surfaces.

For me that’s just a reminder that you have more to worry about than “germs” when you’re talking about drinking water.

Which goes to my point: the fact that all of us aren’t sick all the time is a pretty good indication that water fountains are generally safe.

To sum up:

[li]A public health department does an investigation and finds that a bunch of sick people all have the same genetic strain of illness, and they all drank from the same water fountain, and that fountain is found to harbor the same strain of bacteria/virus. OK, we all better stop drinking from that water fountain.[/ul][/li]
[ul][*]Some jackass who wants to sell a sensationalist book finds germs on a water fountain, combined with masses of people not getting sick. What’s the problem?[/ul]

When everybody who drinks from the water fountain dies of cholera, then it may be time to worry about “germs”.

I drink from the water fountain and haven’t gotten sick. I do worry about some of the pollutants from the pipes and residual chemicals in the tap water, but not necessarily bacteria itself.

Many of these outdoor water fountains have water that is coming through very old and decaying pipes. That is far more of an issue than germs. I just throw a couple of bottles of water in my tote and ignore the fountains.

In San Jose I seldom drink water that has not been highly filtered. Don’t know what is in our water, but it will eat brass valves up in a short period of time.

I cannot remember the last time I drank from a fountain. If I am thirsty, I buy a bottle of water.

I can’t recall the last time I*** saw*** a water fountain. Maybe I just don’t pay attention.

And where do you think that bottle was filled from?

Either a city water supply, or an ancient spring or well, delivered “through very old and decaying pipes”. Despite the pretty pictures of mountain streams or tranquil ponds on the labels, most just come from a city water plant. (But priced several times higher.)

Worth every penny when I’m thirsty.

IME, most public buildings and office buildings in the US have them.

And in Portland, we have them scattered outside around the city, with constant flow. According to legend, they were an attempt to keep loggers slightly more sober in the early 1900’s. They are still used by tourists and locals.

Benson Bubblers

I must walk right past them without noticing. I seem to remember seeing them in the older courthouses, but if they’re in the new ones, I have missed it. I’m in a lot of office buildings, and I don’t think they have water fountains. I’ll look next time.