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What They Don’t Tell You About the Water When You Receive Your Captain’s License

Source: Mariners Learning System, By Captain Bob Figular

Whether you have your captain’s license and are operating an OUPV vessel on the water or you’re kayaking or engaging in some other water-related activity, you run the risk of getting sick. According to Discovery News, the average person had a slightly higher risk of developing a gastrointestinal condition or eye problem if he spent time in the water. The reason for this most likely lies in the microorganisms and pollution that reside in the water.

In a University of Illinois study, over eleven thousand participants were asked to conduct different activities. One third were asked to engage in boating activities on the Chicago River, a river with wastewater where swimming is prohibited; another third were asked to conduct boating activities in Lake Michigan, a clean lake where swimming is allowed; finally, the last third were asked to only take part in land-based activities and stay away from the water. The idea of the study was to see whether or not polluted waters would affect those who boat.

The Clean Water Act allows boating on waters that are deemed unfit for swimming. The thought is that there isn’t as much risk of being affected because you’re on a boat. With swimming, you obviously have more contact with the contaminated water and could be affected greater. However, the results of the study indicate that even a splash could result in sickness.

Both of the water-based groups saw a slightly higher risk of gastrointestinal and eye issues than the final third. The two water groups were about the same, and researchers speculate that this is because boaters in the cleaner waters were more likely to submerge themselves in the water, subjecting themselves to more microorganisms. The risk of both was about one percent.

While these results aren’t shocking or life-threatening, they do indicate that the effects of polluted waters extend past swimming. There are precautions that can be taken including investigation through beach monitoring programs and other means. If you are aware of the risks of boating in polluted waters and take the proper precautions, it should be smooth sailing the next time you go out in the water.


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