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Clean Water May Improve Growth in Children, Study Finds

Thinkstock/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Clean water and soap may help improve growth in young children, according to a new report by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and WaterAid.

Researchers observed how water, sanitation, and hygiene impacted the physical growth of 9,469 children under the age of five in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Chile, Guatemala, Pakistan, Nepal, South Africa, Kenya and Cambodia. The data showed that children who used soap and an improved quality of water were on average 0.5 cm taller.

The lead author on the report is Dr. Alan Dangour, a public health nutritionist from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. "While there are some important shortcomings in the available evidence base, we estimate that clean drinking water and effective hand washing could reduce the prevalence of stunting in children under the age of five by up to 15%" Dangour said.

This study is the first to prove that intervening in water, sanitation, and hygiene practices can help improve children's nutritional future.

WaterAid's chief executive Barbara Frost said, "As well as resulting in hundreds of thousands of under-five deaths every year, there is a growing consensus that unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene can affect the body's ability to absorb nutrients, impacting on child development and contributing to their stunting."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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