Abstract

Therapeutic use of spring waters has a recorded history dating back to at least 1550 BC and includes both bathing in and drinking such waters for their healing properties. In Australia and New Zealand the use of therapeutic spring waters is a much more recent phenomenon, becoming a source of health tourism from the late 1800s. We conducted a systematic review aimed at determining the potential health outcomes relating to exposure to Australian or New Zealand natural spring water. We found only low-level evidence of adverse health outcomes relating to this spring water exposure, including fatalities from hydrogen sulphide poisoning, drowning and primary amoebic meningoencephalitis. We found no studies that investigated the therapeutic use of these waters, compared with similar treatment with other types of water. From the broader literature, recommendations have been made, including fencing potentially harmful spring water, and having signage and media messages to highlight the potential harms from spring water exposure and how to mitigate the risks (e.g. not putting your head under water from geothermal springs). Sound research into the potential health benefits of Australian and New Zealand spring waters could provide an evidence base for the growing wellness tourism industry.

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