Currently, one of Mexico’s most severe environmental problems is the high levels of pollution of many of its rivers. The present article focuses on the relationship between total coliform bacteria levels and the increase of human digestive tract diseases in the highly polluted Atoyac River in the central Mexican states of Puebla and Tlaxcala. Pollution has become a potential health hazard for people living in nearby river communities. Based on data collected from six of the most contaminated riverside municipalities, two environmental models were developed taking into consideration the health of the entire population, not simply that of its individual members. Such models estimate a health-disease function that confirm the link between Atoyac River pollution and the incidence of gastrointestinal diseases. The causal relation between pollution and gastrointestinal disease incentivizes the creation of epidemiological and public health programs aimed at reducing the environmental health impact of the pollution associated with the Atoyac River. The results presented here are the first of their kind of this river and will serve as basis for future research exploring other similarly contaminated riparian communities. As the causes of pollution are directly related to the economic development and population growth of the region, further research should be conducted for prevention of diseases, educational programs, water remediation and conservation programs that will have a positive impact on the quality of life of the population presently at risk.
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