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Water pollution in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games

Just days ahead of the Olympic Games the waterways of Rio de Janeiro are as filthy as ever, contaminated with raw human sewage teeming with dangerous viruses and bacteria, according to a 16-month-long study commissioned by The Associated Press.

Not only are some 1,400 athletes at risk of getting violently ill in water competitions, but the AP’s tests indicate that tourists also face potentially serious health risks on the golden beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana.

The AP’s survey of the aquatic Olympic and Paralympic venues has revealed consistent and dangerously high levels of viruses from the pollution, a major black eye on Rio’s Olympic project that has set off alarm bells among sailors, rowers and open-water swimmers.

The first results of the study published over a year ago showed viral levels at up to 1.7 million times what would be considered worrisome in the United States or Europe. At those concentrations, swimmers and athletes who ingest just three teaspoons of water are almost certain to be infected with viruses that can cause stomach and respiratory illnesses and more rarely heart and brain inflammation - although whether they actually fall ill depends on a series of factors including the strength of the individual’s immune system.

Since the AP released the initial results last July, athletes have been taking elaborate precautions to prevent illnesses that could potentially knock them out of the competition, including preventatively taking antibiotics, bleaching oars and donning plastic suits and gloves in a bid to limit contact with the water. (AP)

Water pollution in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games

View of floating debris carried by the tide and caught by the “eco-barrier” before entering Guanabara Bay, at the mouth of Meriti river in Duque de Caxias, next to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on July 20, 2016. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

Water pollution in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games

In this July 5, 2016 photo, cars drive above sewage flowing from the suburb of Sao Goncalo into Guanabara Bay, across the bay from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Throughout Brazil, sewage treatment has lagged dramatically, meaning that so-called ‘black tongues’ of fetid, sewage-filled water are common on beaches across the country. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Water pollution in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games

In this July 11, 2016 photo, doctoral candidate Rodrigo Staggemeier shows samples of water and sand from Copacabana Beach, collected for a study commissioned by The Associated Press, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A 16-month review of the aquatic Olympic and Paralympic venues has revealed consistent and dangerously high levels of illness-causing viruses from the human sewage pollution that has become a major black eye on Rio’s Olympic project and set off alarm bells among sailors, rowers and open-water swimmers. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

Water pollution in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games

Thrash floats on the water of Botafogo beach next to the Sugar Loaf mountain and the Guanabara Bay where sailing athletes will compete during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, July 30, 2016. A recent investigation by Associated Press on water quality at aquatic venues for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has raised concerns about the risk to the health of athletes who will compete. The games start on August 5.(AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Water pollution in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games

This July 5, 2016 photo, shows an aerial view of surfers paddling into the polluted waters off Sao Conrado beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “It’s been decades and I see no improvement,” laments biologist Mario Moscatelli, an activist who’s the most visible face of the fight to clean up Rio’s waterways. Guanabara Bay has been transformed in a latrine … and unfortunately Rio de Janeiro missed the opportunity, maybe the last big opportunity’ to clean it up. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Water pollution in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games

A clean workers removes the trash over the sand of Botafogo beach next to the Sugar Loaf mountain and the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, July 30, 2016. Just days ahead of the Olympic Games the waterways of Rio de Janeiro are as filthy as ever, contaminated with raw human sewage teeming with dangerous viruses and bacteria, according to a 16-month-long study commissioned by The Associated Press.(AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Water pollution in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games

A boy reaches for a ball along a polluted canal in the Mare favela community complex on July 18, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Polluted canals in Rio such as this one empty in Guanabara Bay. The Mare complex is one of the largest favela complexes in Rio and is challenged by violence, pollution and poverty. The Rio 2016 Olympic Games begin August 5. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Water pollution in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games

Trash litters the Botafogo beach next to the Sugar Loaf mountain and the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, July 30, 2016. An Associated Press investigation has found the waters where Olympians will compete in swimming and boating events next summer in South America’s first games are rife with human sewage and present a serious health risk for athletes. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Water pollution in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games

View of floating debris carried by the tide and caught by the “eco-barrier” before entering Guanabara Bay, at the mouth of Meriti river in Duque de Caxias, next to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on July 20, 2016. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

Water pollution in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games

In this July 5, 2016 photo, an aerial view shows sewage moving into the canals that rim the Barra de Tijuca neighborhood near Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. While local authorities including Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes have acknowledged the failure of the city’s water cleanup efforts, calling the “lost chance” a “shame,” Olympic officials continue to insist Rio’s waterways will be safe for athletes and visitors. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Water pollution in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games

Children try to catch a crab as they play on the polluted shore of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, July 30, 2016. In Rio, the main tourist gateway to the country, a centuries-long sewage problem that was part of Brazil’s colonial legacy has spiked in recent decades in tandem with the rural exodus that saw the metropolitan area nearly double in size since 1970. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Water pollution in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games

In this July 5, 2016 photo, a bird flies over sewage filled water and sludge flowing into Guanabara Bay in the suburb of Sao Goncalo, across the bay from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Athletes, who have trained years for a chance at Olympic glory, have resigned themselves to competing in the filth and are taking precautions. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Water pollution in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games

Houses stand next to the heavily polluted shore of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, July 30, 2016. Just days ahead of the Olympic Games the waterways of Rio are as filthy as ever, contaminated with raw human sewage teeming with dangerous viruses and bacteria, according to a 16-month-long study commissioned by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Water pollution in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games

This July 5, 2016 photo, shows an aerial view of a polluted lagoon near Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Promises to clean up Rio’s waterways stretch back decades, with a succession of governors setting firm dates for a cleanup and repeatedly pushing them back. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Water pollution in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games

A man washes himself in the polluted waters of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, July 30, 2016. While local authorities including Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes have acknowledged the failure of the city’s water cleanup efforts, calling it a “lost chance” and a “shame,” Olympic officials continue to insist Rio’s waterways will be safe for athletes and visitors. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Water pollution in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games

A polluted canal runs past the Vila Autodromo 'favela’ community next to the Olympic Park (BACKGROUND) in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood on July 16, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Nearly all of the residents of the Vila Autodromo 'favela’ community in the area had their properties controversially demolished, after receiving compensation, for their homes which were located directly adjacent to the Olympic Park under construction for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Around 20 remaining families who continued in resistance will remain with the Rio government constructing them new homes on the property. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Water pollution in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games

In this July 5, 2016 photo, boats sit on the polluted shore of Guanabara Bay in the Sao Goncalo suburb across the bay from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In Rio, the main tourist gateway to the country, a centuries-long sewage problem that was part of Brazil’s colonial legacy has spiked in recent decades in tandem with the rural exodus that saw the metropolitan area nearly double in size since 1970. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Water pollution in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games

In this July 5, 2016 photo, aerial view shows polluted water, left, flowing from the Barra channel to the Barra beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Tourists are unlikely to realize the dangers lurking in the waters and the sands. Signs alerting beachgoers whether waters are considered fit for bathing used to dot showcase beaches, but they’re no longer there. Now, a brief item on the weather page of the local paper lists which beaches the state environmental agency has deemed safe for swimming. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Water pollution in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games

Houses sit next to a heavily polluted shore in Guanabara bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, July 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Water pollution in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games

In this July 5, 2016 photo, aerial view shows trash on the shores of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In light of AP’s findings on the city’s water quality, Dr. Valerie Harwood, Department Chair of Integrative Biology at the University of Southern Florida, had one piece of advice for travelers to Rio: “Don’t put your head under water.” Swimmers who don’t heed that advice risk ingesting water through their mouths and noses and therefore risk “getting violently ill,” she said. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Water pollution in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games

A woman runs next to the trash that litters the Botafogo beach next to the Sugar Loaf mountain and the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, July 30, 2016. An Associated Press investigation has found the waters where Olympians will compete in swimming and boating events next summer in South America’s first games are rife with human sewage and present a serious health risk for athletes.(AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Water pollution in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games

Fishermen park their boat near a polluted shore in Guanabara bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, July 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

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