Ch 1 - Introduction
Canoeist Pathogenic Illness Guide


Forward to Chapter 2 (Waterborne Pathogens)


For many hundreds of years the rivers and seas of Britain have been used for the disposal of human waste on an "out of sight, out of mind" principle. Even after the introduction of large scale public health sanitation in the middle of the last century, rivers were used for the disposal of the treated waste.

In more recent decades, as rivers and the coast have been increasingly used for all forms of recreation, the risk of acquiring some form of gastrointestinal illness from these waters has been recognised as a traditional part of many sports, to be accepted with some form of stoicism.

In the past five years however, two factors have begun to change this resigned acceptance of such illness. Firstly, an increased environmental awareness and militancy has led many people to question all forms of pollution, including the pollution from sewage. Secondly, changes in case law and legislation, concerning legal liability and health and safety, have caused watersports instructors and watersports facilities managers to question whether they would be at legal risk if one of their clients became ill.

As a result of these questions, this study is designed to assess the actual risk to canoeists of becoming ill due to the various pathogenic microorganisms in freshwater, and to see what advice can be offered to reduce that risk. Chapters two, three and four of the study review the published literature, looking at microbiology, epidemiology and water treatment. The legal aspects are not studied in detail (as this is a specialist topic in it's own right) but chapter five looks briefly at the water quality standards relating to the microbiology of bathing water.

Chapter six reviews all of these issues from the viewpoint of the canoeist, too see what information can be provided to enable sensible decisions to be made about the risk of canoeing on a particular site on a certain day, and what actions can be taken to minimise any risk if a decision is made to go afloat.

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