Rio’s Water a Risk to Tourists as well as Athletes

Oli RioWe looked at the water situation in Rio not too long ago, but now with the Olympics about to get under way..what is the latest?


The Associated Press commissioned a 16 month long study whose findings are that with the Olympics about to get underway the waterways of Rio de Janeiro are as filthy and contaminated as ever. The risk to athletes is considerable..but what about tourists getting exposed. Athletes have and will be taking extraordinary precautions , but what of the 300,000-500,000 visitors.oli2

Testing at several of the cities world famous beaches has shown high viral loads, and often levels of bacteria that are cause for concern. The best advice to travelers is “don’t put your head under the water”.

Poop Water:

The sand itself is hiding danger. Samples of sand from the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches reveal high levels of viruses, with studies showing risk to babies and small children.oli4

Local authorities, including the mayor of Rio acknowledge the failure of the clean up efforts, while Olympic officials still promote the water is going to be safe for athletes and visitors alike. The water issue seems unsettled with the crux of the matter being the different types of testing used to determine water safety and health. Bacterial tests measure levels of coliforms..different types of bacteria that tend to not cause illnesses themselves, but are indicators of the presence of other potentially more harmful sewage. These bacterial tests are a world wide standard, but there is a growing understanding that they are not ideal for all climates. Bacteria breaks down quickly in tropical climates and salt water conditions, however viruses have been shown to survive much longer in these conditions.  This means that tropical Rio can show low bacteria levels…but completely miss the high virus levels. Through the AP’s testing in June  2016 the fecal coliforms in water samples at Ipanema Beach were quite low, but still had high reading for rotavirus…the main cause of gastroenteritus globally.

Continuing pollution problem in Rio:

Consider that the triathlon and marathon swimmers will be participating in the water off the Copacabana beach , and most likely tourists will take a dip there and hang out on the beach.


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