A review of physicochemical and biological contaminants in drinking water and their impacts on human health

Ahsan Shah, Arun Arjunan, Ahmad Baroutaji, Julia Zakharova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Clean drinking water is one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Despite significant progress in the water purification technology, many regions still lack access to clean water. This paper provides a review of selected water contaminants and their impacts on human health. The World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines and regional standards for key contaminants were used to characterise water quality in the European Union and UK. The concept of safe drinking water was explained based on the non-observed adverse effect level, threshold concentrations for toxic chemicals, and their total daily intake. Various techniques for monitoring water contaminants and the drinking water standards from five different countries, including the UK, USA, Canada, Pakistan and India, were compared to WHO recommended guidelines. The literature on actual water quality in these regions and its potential health impacts was also discussed. Finally, the role of public water suppliers in identifying and monitoring drinking water contaminants in selected developed countries was presented as a potential guideline for developing countries. This review emphasised the need for a comprehensive understanding of water quality and its impacts on human health to ensure access to clean drinking water worldwide.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-344
Number of pages12
JournalWater Science and Engineering
Issue number4
Early online date14 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2023 Hohai University. Production and hosting by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).


  • Drinking water contaminants
  • Physicochemical contaminants
  • Biological contaminants
  • Human health risks
  • Waterborne diseases
  • Water quality
  • Public health concerns
  • Water treatment


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