Estimated Human Health Risks From Exposure to Recreational Waters Impacted by Human and Non-Human Sources of Faecal Contamination

Water Res. 2010 Sep;44(16):4674-91. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2010.06.049. Epub 2010 Jun 25.


This work was conducted to determine whether estimated risks following exposure to recreational waters impacted by gull, chicken, pig, or cattle faecal contamination are substantially different than those associated with waters impacted by human sources such as treated wastewater. Previously published Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment (QMRA) methods were employed and extended to meet these objectives. Health outcomes used in the analyses were infection from reference waterborne pathogens via ingestion during recreation and subsequent gastrointestinal (GI) illness. Illness risks from these pathogens were calculated for exposure to faecally contaminated recreational water at the U.S. regulatory limits of 35 cfu 100 mL(-1) enterococci and 126 cfu 100 mL(-1)Escherichia coli. The probabilities of GI illness were calculated using pathogen dose-response relationships from the literature and Monte Carlo simulations. Three scenarios were simulated, representing a range of feasible interpretations of the available data. The primary findings are that: 1) GI illness risks associated with exposure to recreational waters impacted by fresh cattle faeces may not be substantially different from waters impacted by human sources; and 2) the risks associated with exposure to recreational waters impacted by fresh gull, chicken, or pig faeces appear substantially lower than waters impacted by human sources. These results suggest that careful consideration may be needed in the future for the management of recreational waters not impacted by human sources.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Charadriiformes
  • Chickens
  • Computer Simulation
  • Enterococcus / isolation & purification
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Exposure / standards
  • Escherichia coli / isolation & purification
  • Feces / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Recreation*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Swine
  • United States
  • Water Microbiology*
  • Water Pollutants / analysis*
  • Water Pollutants / standards
  • Water Supply / analysis*
  • Water Supply / standards


  • Water Pollutants