Renata Picão, a microbiologist at the Federal University of Rio, in her lab. She has not set foot in the beaches’ water since she began sampling it three years ago. Credit Lalo de Almeida for The New York Times Keep Your Mouth Closed: Aquatic Olympians Face a Toxic Stew in Rio
By ANDREW JACOBS JULY 29, 2016
RIO DE JANEIRO — Health experts in Brazil have a word of advice for the Olympic marathon swimmers, sailors and windsurfers competing in Rio de Janeiro’s picture-postcard waters next month: Keep your mouth closed.
Despite the government’s promises seven years ago to stem the waste that fouls Rio’s expansive Guanabara Bay and the city’s fabled ocean beaches, officials acknowledge that their efforts to treat raw sewage and scoop up household garbage have fallen far short.
In fact, environmentalists and scientists say Rio’s waters are much more contaminated than previously thought.
Recent tests by government and independent scientists revealed a veritable petri dish of pathogens in many of the city’s waters, from rotaviruses that can cause diarrhea and vomiting to drug-resistant “superbacteria” that can be fatal to people with weakened immune systems.
Researchers at the Federal University of Rio also found serious contamination at the upscale beaches of Ipanema and Leblon, where many of the half-million Olympic spectators are expected to frolic between sporting events.
“Foreign athletes will literally be swimming in human feces, and they risk getting sick from all those microorganisms,” said Dr. Daniel Becker, a local pediatrician who works in poor neighborhoods.Swimmers need to ingest only three teaspoons of water to be almost certain of contracting a virus: A report commisioned by the Associated Press has revealed that water in Rio's Olympic and Paralympic venues holds viral levels 1.7 million times what would be considered alarming in the United States and Europe