Knowledge Gulp - Water Ingestion During Water Recreation

WERF is supporting research to address a knowledge gap in estimating health risks of water recreation. Risk assessment models can be a useful tool for local government agencies or utilities to estimate the health risks of using surface waters for recreation. They can support the development of location-specific water quality standards or to estimate health risks for a specific level of water quality. But the estimated health risk depends on how much water people swallow when using surface waters for recreation. Researchers Sam Dorevitch and An Li, of the University of Illinois in Chicago (UIC),  are estimating water ingestion rates during various recreational activities in WERF’s project, Measuring Water Ingestion During Water Recreation (PATH5R09). The results of this research will provide estimated rates of water ingestion for adults and children who swim, canoe, kayak, and fish. The participants use pools for a variety of full contact and limited contact recreation activities, including simulated fishing using a toy lure, which they cast into a pool. These estimates will be useful for risk modeling, and for comparing health risks of limited contact versus full contact water recreation.  

Dorevitch and Li are using measures of cyanuric acid, which is routinely added to outdoor pools, as a tracer of water ingestion. The field portion of the research, including enrolling and interviewing more than 600 study participants and collecting urine samples has been completed, as well as the chemical analysis of pool water and the urine samples. The team is currently calculating the amount of water swallowed by study participants, and evaluating whether water ingestion rates are different for different recreational activities. They are also comparing self-reported water ingestion (information obtained in interviews following pool recreation) to objective measures of water recreation (levels of cyanuric acid in urine).

This project supports work being conducted by UIC researchers on short-term health risks of water recreation through the Chicago Health, Environmental Exposure and Recreation Study (CHEERS). WERF is providing an expert panel to carry out a technical review of this large epidemiology study through a separate project within the Waterborne Pathogens and Human Health Program, Epidemiologic Study of Recreational Use of the Chicago Area Waterways  (PATH1PR06).

To learn more about this project and other ongoing projects under WERF’s Waterborne Pathogens and Human Health Program, visit WERF online at

March 17, 2010