Author: Rianna Murray
Rianna Murray, a recipient of a 2014-15 Graduate Research and Travel Grant from PSE, conducted a recent study with the recreational population of the Anacostia River to investigate the potential health risks faced by recreational users from exposure to the river’s pollutants. A total of 197 recreational users of the Anacostia River were surveyed regarding general demographic information, their recreational behavior and health over the previous year, including frequency and duration of recreation and specific questions related to their water exposure. 84.1% of respondents who engaged in canoeing, kayaking, boating, rafting or paddling were exposed to water on their bodies during recreation. Some 27.2% of this group reported getting water in their mouth while recreating, and 16.5% reported swallowing some of this water.
This work is novel in the Anacostia watershed and provides the foundation for future studies related to recreational activity in the region. Through the survey, information about recreational activity and user demographics, characteristics, habits and exposure were obtained where no such information previously existed. Although definitive associations cannot be made between exposure experienced while recreating in the Anacostia River and a specific health outcome in this work, future research will involve exposure assessment studies around these associations, utilizing groups of highly exposed and unexposed recreational users. Personal samples from recreational users and environmental samples will be used to establish the relationship between water quality, microbial levels in personal samples and the onset of GI illness. This data may have utility for current efforts to address contamination of the Anacostia including the Urban Waters Partnership and the Anacostia Watershed Partnership as efforts are made to transform the Anacostia from its current state as the “forgotten river”. The travel grant awarded by PSE allowed Ms. Murray to present her research at the American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual meeting in November 2014 in New Orleans, LA.