Holy water at Austrian religious sites declared unsafe
Scientists warn against drinking it
Holy water at Austrian religious sites is often contaminated with faecal matter and bacteria, researchers have found, saying it is unsafe to drink.
Scientists at Vienna University came to the conclusion after analysing the water quality at 21 "holy" springs and 18 fonts at churches and chapels at various times of year.
Of the samples, 86 per cent, showed faecal contamination, and none of the springs could be recommended as a source of drinking water, the study presented to a conference in Vienna this week found.
Many also had agricultural nitrates and bugs that can cause inflammatory diarrhoea.
"We need to warn people against drinking from these sources," microbiologist Alexander Kirschner said in the study.
He said the healing effects ascribed to holy sources arose from the hygienic conditions of the Middle Ages, when water quality in urban areas was generally so poor that people contracted diarrhoea or other conditions regularly anyway.
"If they then came across a protected spring in the forest that was not as polluted and drank from it for several days, their symptoms would disappear. So although in those days they were drinking healthier water, given the excellent quality of our drinking water today, the situation is now completely reversed."
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