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A.P. tests: Rio’s waters unsafe for athletes

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Updated Aug. 10, 2015

A.P. tests: Rio’s waters unsafe for athletes

Recent tests of the waters off Rio de Janeiro have revealed unsafe levels of viruses and bacteria from sewage that could make Olympians and visitors ill. Brazil is hosting South America’s first games in the summer of 2016.

The Associated Press conducted four rounds of tests over the past five months. Some athletes in the area training have already become ill with fevers, vomiting and diarrhea.

“What you have there is basically raw sewage,” said John Griffith, a marine biologist at the independent Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, in an article by the New York Times last week. Griffith examined the protocols, methodology and results of the A.P. tests. “It’s all the water from the toilets and the showers and whatever people put down their sinks, all mixed up, and it’s going out into the beach waters.”

About 30 boats of all sizes paraded across Rio’s Guanabara Bay on Aug. 8 to protest the condition of the water, the AP reported.

Dr. Richard Budgett, medical director for the International Olympic Committee, said tests for bacteria only show that the water is safe.

“We’ve had reassurances from the World Health Organization and others that there is no significant risk to athlete health,” he said in news reports.

But most illnesses from water are related to viruses, so water and health experts in the United States and Europe have urges the IOC to include viral testing as well.

About a tenth of the athletes expected at the games will come in contact with Rio’s contaminated waters, including sailors, swimmers and rowers.

As part of Brazil’s bid to get the Olympics, authorities pledged to cut the amount of raw human sewage in Guanabara Bay before the 2016 games, the AP reported. One of eight proposed treatment plants has been built, and the bay’s waters remain contaminated.

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