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Don't Get in The Water

Don't Get in The Water

The past weekend was packed with a number of sporting events. Basketball and football seemed to take most of the media's attention. Woman's volleyball was also on a few television channels. It is an exciting sport: fast and physical. A volley ball coach told me that in order to be a Division I member of a girls’ volleyball team, the athlete must be able to jump and reach eleven feet. That is an amazing leap for anyone. I would need a twelve foot step ladder to reach eleven feet.

As I watched several different games, I could not help but notice the number of injuries that were occurring as the athletes competed at the highest level. Some ankle injuries, some knee injuries, concussions from hitting the ground too hard, rib injuries from being smacked by some three-hundred-pound defensive guy and a bunch of injured egos as teams lost their quest to be champions of their leagues. I enjoy sports. I think competition is good for the soul.

The security was very tight. Each game had armed guards strategically placed around the fields and I assume, in the stands. It is a sad commentary on our society when we feel threatened by terrorists who want nothing more to disrupt our daily living by killing innocent people and/or blowing themselves up with an incendiary device of some kind. All of this violence is being perpetrated by fundamental extremists who are in the hopes of reaching a state of martyrdom by killing themselves and others.

But there is another, more sinister disturbance brewing in the world of sport. Some of you may be following the corruption in FIFA associated with awarding countries the rights to hold the World Cup, however ominous that corruption may be, the disturbance I am referring to is the problems that are emerging in preparation for the 2016 Olympics being held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Rio won the right to host the Olympics based on a very lengthy bid document. One of the sections of the document specifically stated that Brazil would clean up the city's waterways. Why are the waterways so polluted? Because raw sewage flows into them from the sewers and storm drains from one of the largest, most populated cities in the world. Rio has been dumping human waste into the bays and lagoons for years. There is an old saying, "The solution to pollution is dilution." There is no hope for dilution when the Brazilians have forgone the building of sanitation facilities and sewage treatment plants to handle Rio's human waste problems.

In July, the AP reported its first round of water testing showed disease-causing viruses directly related to human excrement at levels up to 1.7 million times what would be considered highly alarming in the United States or Europe. Some experts say the results show that many athletes will be competing in the viral equivalent of raw sewage.

In August, pre-Olympic rowing and sailing events were held in Rio. To no surprise, many of the athletes came down with illnesses nearly double the acceptable limit for U.S. citizens swimming in recreational waters. Many sports officials have now pledged to do their own viral testing to ensure the waters are safe for competition during next year's games. Testing in August showed not only that there has been no improvement in the water quality, the actual contamination identified was much greater than was previously known.

To make matters even more disturbing, the Brazilian, Olympic and World Health Organizations are mandating that testing should be performed for bacterial markers only, thereby avoiding the viral contamination issue all together. There is no correlation between the bacterial counts and viral loads in contaminated water. Bacteria are metabolically active and are susceptible to salt water and sunny conditions. They do not survive long in the ocean. But viruses remain despite the hostile environmental challenges of ocean water since they are not metabolically active. Viruses can remain for months if not years in contaminated water.

Brazilian officials promised to clean up Rio's waterways. That was a major condition for the awarding them the right to host the 2016 Olympics. Brazilian officials now acknowledge that the waterways will not be cleaned up. I am sure many athletes are now weighing the risk of contracting a virally induced illness verses the benefits of Olympic competition. Now we have to add the risks of competing in sewage to the threats of violent extremists. I hope the Brazilians do not water the grass with this stuff.

Rio de Janeiro is legend for beautiful woman hanging out on picturesque sandy beaches. One thing's for sure: if you plan on going to Rio for the Olympics next year, get your hepatitis vaccines and don't get in the water!

Posted by Amanda Sanders at 10:11 AM
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