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Tennessee Water Safety - More than Life Jackets

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 By Deborah Smith/Eric Mack, Contact
May 25, 2007

Highs in the 80s and sunshine for Memorial Day weekend means plenty of Tennesseans will be playing in the water. But, one-in-ten will be sorry they did because they'll get sick, according to new statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Nancy Stoner, with the Natural Resources Defense Council, says rivers, streams and lakes collect bacteria, viruses and parasites, but the water isn't regularly tested in Tennessee. There are, however, clues anyone can look for.

"Usually, if there's a pretty good current, that helps to carry downstream the pollution that mostly happens after it rains."

Stoner says most people don't realize water contamination is a likely suspect in their illness.

"You don't know whether you caught the flu, or whether you ate bad food. If you're swimming in contaminated water, you will get sick."

Children should be told to avoid swallowing any water while swimming, and anyone with skin cuts or scratches is at higher risk of infection. The most common illnesses related to water contamination are eye infections, skin rashes, fevers, nausea and intestinal problems.

Tips on protection from water-borne illnesses are online at www.nrdc.org/media/2007/070524a.asp.

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