Swimming and Water Pollution
Swimming in lakes, rivers and the ocean has long been a popular way to cool off as well as to get a great low impact workout. We all have fond memories of cooling off during the summer months by plunging into the water, or that great workout where you set a personal record swimming around the local lake. However, a question not often considered is how that plunge might negatively affect your health. Moreover, how might prolonged periods of exposure and possible ingestion of this water, as might occur during an athlete’s swimming workout or race, impact any potential health risk?
Guidelines for athletes
- To avoid polluted water during your swim workouts and lessen your risk of negative health effects, observe the following guidelines from the department of health:
- Be aware of advisories and closures and avoid swimming in those areas.
- Do not swim or allow children to play in storm drains/storm water (visible runoff). Avoid swimming during and after rainfall.
- Avoid submerging your head and ingesting water, which may be difficult if an athlete is trying to get in a training session.
- Avoid swimming if you have an open wound or infection.
Swimming in open waterways is a great form of recreation as well as exercise. However, very little is known and there is no consensus on what the health risks are of such activities. Even in seemingly clear, pristine lakes, rivers and oceans there may be a risk. However, the majority of swimmers will not experience any major illness due to recreating in polluted waters. The bottom line is, as environmentalists, health professionals and the EPA continue to research water quality and human health, when you engage in open water swims, you should follow the above guidelines in order to minimize any potential health risks.