Don’t drink the holy water

This is not surprising. And, it’s actually predictable based on the absence of supernatural powers of healing waters.

Study: Holy Water May be Harmful to Your Health – ABC News.

Despite its purported cleansing properties, holy water could actually be more harmful than healing, according to a new Austrian study on “holy” springs.

Researchers at the Institute of Hygiene and Applied Immunology at the Medical University of Vienna tested water from 21 springs in Austria and 18 fonts in Vienna and found samples contained up to 62 million bacteria per milliliter of water, none of it safe to drink.

Tests indicated 86 percent of the holy water, commonly used in baptism ceremonies and to wet congregants’ lips, was infected with common bacteria found in fecal matter such as E. coli, enterococci and Campylobacter, which can lead to diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever.

Here is a link to the study:

Of the holy springs investigated, only 14% met the microbiological and chemical requirements of national drinking water regulations. Considering results from sanitary inspections of the water catchments, no spring was assessed as a reliable drinking water source. All holy water samples from churches and hospital chapels showed extremely high concentrations of HPC; fecal indicators, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus occurred only in the most frequently visited churches. We conclude that it is highly necessary to include holy springs in programs for assessment and management of water quality. Public awareness has to be raised to perceive holy springs as potential sources of illness.

There are still many people who think their well water and roadside spring water is more “natural” and healthy than treated water even though animals crap in it and it is contaminated with everything in the air that lands in the water (mercury, virus, bacteria, etc.). I suppose that some people think because it’s been blessed (which is what makes water holy), that it can’t hurt you. But the priest’s blessing is NOT going to neutralize the fecal bacteria on the hands of the person who touched it last. Yuck. Unsanitary.

Of the holy springs investigated, only 14% met the microbiological and chemical requirements of national drinking water regulations. Considering results from sanitary inspections of the water catchments, no spring was assessed as a reliable drinking water source. All holy water samples from churches and hospital chapels showed extremely high concentrations of HPC; fecal indicators, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus occurred only in the most frequently visited churches. We conclude that it is highly necessary to include holy springs in programs for assessment and management of water quality. Public awareness has to be raised to perceive holy springs as potential sources of illness.

Holy water font in Rome, Italy (Wikipedia)

Holy water font in Rome, Italy (Wikipedia)

Tip: @P_Trussell on Twitter

  14 comments for “Don’t drink the holy water

  1. spookyparadigm
    September 15, 2013 at 5:06 PM

    If this were Gawker, you’d need to put the bathtub scene from Lost Boys at the top of this post.

  2. spookyparadigm
    September 15, 2013 at 5:08 PM

    Hmm. As apparently the earlier one in the film is the first search return, I should clarify, I mean this one

  3. September 15, 2013 at 5:45 PM

    Having been born & bred in Northern Ireland home of some of worlds worst bigotry & weird combinations of Christianity,& earlier pagan rituals & superstitions,i’ve politely if reluctantly tasted water from many “Holy Wells” supposedly blessed & reputed for cures by a plethera of Saints. Many of which hijacked from pagan & earlier religions by the early proto Christians.To use the dialect it’s usually minging & makes me want to vomit.Far from curing ailments usually gives me more,the runs in particular.Usually springs,or standing water ponds near depressions in rocks,rocky outcrops in hilly areas or small mountains,or pools created by dripping water from trees in obscure woods or forests.Many of course used as toilet facilities by animals & humans.The ancient cup & ball markings & sculptures giving a bit of credence to their antiquity,but not holy curative powers.Trees & bushes in vicinity usually covered in “wishing bows” – often degraded in these days to tied plastic shopping bags,with a prayer to God,the Saints,& in odd case earlier dieties & faries, & coins in the stagnant pools. Drinking water from this no a surprise you get more sick not better. I admit they fascinate me & i would seek them out,but only for curiousity of the ancient markings & not the later conversion to places of “miraculous cures”.The leaching of chemicals from the stone is dangerous usually & that of the copper & nickel coins thrown in the water like the more obvious wishing wells. Interesting to seek out to follow the history & gradual degradation of beliefs & their changes over historical times,but not a place to try to imbibe polluted & potentially toxic mix of water lying stagnant,expecting miraculous cures,when the opposite is more likely.

  4. September 15, 2013 at 5:56 PM

    Only the sinners get sick? Hm

    • September 15, 2013 at 6:23 PM

      Moi?! Je suis un ange! I’m here on this planet to prove that good boys go to heaven,& bad boys go everywhere. Apologies to Meat Loaf & Jim Steinman. I’m a sick sinner who should be dead by now if i believed the religious leaders of many religions & sects.Every now & again you need a bad example,not to follow.I do it as a public service.

  5. September 16, 2013 at 1:29 AM

    Those of us who read Science Based Medicine already knew this. From Dr. Crislip’s article Religion and SCAM:

    Years ago I was consulted on a patient with severe bloody diarrhea and the stool cultures grew Aeromonas, a waterborne organism. In asking direct questions looking for an exposure I discovered she had a gallon of holy water she had brought back with her from a trip to Mexico and she sipped a bit each day. We cultured the holy water and it grew Aeromonas as well.

    You can also listen to him read the same article in his Quackcast on Religion and SCAM.

  6. Nos482
    September 16, 2013 at 2:48 AM

    “contained up to 62 million bacteria per milliliter of water”
    So it’s almost a miracle that the water isn’t moving on it’s own…

  7. eddi
    September 16, 2013 at 3:00 AM

    Ex-Catholic here. There is no reason not to purify, by filtration or other means, any water used in the church founts or coming from these springs. Only inertia and lack of outside oversight has made the situation so bad.
    As an altar boy, one of my tasks was to refill the founts when needed. It’s just tap water until it’s blessed and after the only care needed is not to spill it too much. The old water could just be poured out to water the flowers.
    A lot of the non-Catholic Christian churches would freak out at the idea of sacred water as pagan/heathen Papist nonsense, so they don’t even enter into the issue.

  8. eddi
    September 16, 2013 at 3:01 AM

    Nos482
    September 16, 2013 at 2:48 AM

    “contained up to 62 million bacteria per milliliter of water”
    So it’s almost a miracle that the water isn’t moving on it’s own…

    And everyone thinks The Age Of Miracles has past :-^}

  9. Barn
    September 16, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    It’s organic, though. It has to be good!

  10. September 16, 2013 at 11:10 PM

    I was raised Catholic, baptized and confirmed at the age of 14. I’m now 52, and an active Atheist. When I was a boy, I served as an alter boy, (they’re called Acolytes now since girls can also serve), and there was a point when I was alone in the church and I actually did drink some of the holy water. I had no idea then how potentially hazardous that action was. I was lucky that I didn’t get sick. It makes sense though, when you think about it, this is water that has never been purified, and most likely the source is tap water, (it was at our church). When I think back, I have to wonder; What the hell was I thinking?

  11. September 17, 2013 at 6:06 PM

    “When I was a boy, I served as an alter boy, (they’re called Acolytes now since girls can also serve)”

    Been a while, hasn’t it! Acolyte was the older term, they are now called altar servers, rather than altar boys and altar girls. A few years back my husband was talking with our priest (now mercifully gone) and referred to the servers as “acolytes.” The priest chewed him out royally. I came into my own royal chewing out when I referred to the vestibule as a vestibule. Oh no, he insisted, it was the “gathering space.”

    I seem to recall sponges being placed in the bottom of holy water fonts in some churches – those must have been teeming with bacteria!

    I have had a very hard time convincing some people that blessings do not kill bacteria.

  12. September 18, 2013 at 11:52 AM

    All you need is faith anyway, right?

    • September 18, 2013 at 12:05 PM

      Yep, “Faith” will do you in every time. LOL

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