Science Inventory

The Water Quality in Rio Highlights the Global Public Health Concern Over Untreated Sewage Disposal


Eisenberg, J., J. Bartram, AND Tim Wade. The Water Quality in Rio Highlights the Global Public Health Concern Over Untreated Sewage Disposal. ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH PERSPECTIVES. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), Research Triangle Park, NC, 124(10):180-181, (2016).


Recent media reports of high levels of sewage contamination have caused wide-ranging concerns about the safety of sailing, rowing, and other open water events at the upcoming Olympics. This commentary discusses the global public health problem of exposures to untreated sewage and describes the need for context specific solutions to monitoring and communication and risk assessment.


Water quality issues in Rio have been widely publicized because of the 2016 Olympics. Recent concerns about polluted waters that athletes may be exposed to highlights the conditions that more than a billion people globally are exposed to daily. Despite these unhealthy conditions, much is unknown about the risks and exposure pathways associated with bathing in or drinking untreated or partially treated sewage. Beyond acute illness, we are learning more about the chronic sequelae that arise from repeated exposure to pathogens found in sewage. Additionally, we do not know enough about how to measure water quality, especially in developing countries. A consequence of these knowledge gaps is that data from developed countries are used to guide public health approaches in low· and middle-income settings. More data that are locally specific are needed to inform guidelines for improving sanitation and water quality in Rio and other cities in developing countries.

Record Details:

Product Published Date: 10/01/2016
Record Last Revised: 11/21/2017
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 331832