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24 July 2023
There are reports of people and dogs suffering gastrointestinal illness after swimming in the Thames at Hurst Park.

Even with an increasing public awareness of the quantities of sewage and chemicals going into the Thames, "wild swimming" has never been more popular. If you swim, it is a good policy to let your doctor know should you fall ill with gastro-enteritis or giardia - otherwise no links are made and reporting to your GP is probably the only way of monitoring we have.

Although there was once a bathing station at Hurst Park, the Environment Agency asks the Friends to point out that the river Thames here is NOT designated bathing water, it is not monitored for infectious organisms affecting human and animal health and there are no plans to do so. Whilst many of us used to swim in the Thames quite safely, risk of illness may have increased not ony with combined sewage outfalls, but also with discharge of human waste from 50-60 residential boats illegally and permanently moored upstream of Hurst Park, which have no services.

As long ago as 2013, about 300 swimmers at Hampton Court picked up gastrointenstinal infections after a sponsored swim. The government back then issued a health warning that contact with Thames river water can carry serious health risks. A volunteer who takes water samples at Hurst Park for the worldwide Fresh Water Watch project, agreed: "The arrival of scores of unauthorised residential boats upstream of Hurst Park could be the cause for this increase in stomach illnesses caused by contact with river water. There are always risks from Weil's disease, Cryptosporidium and Giardia which are serious and unpleasant, and other factors are involved too. The risks can apply just as much to splashing, or other contact with river water where water goes into the eyes, the mouth, insect bites or open wounds. People who were once happy to swim in the Thames no longer do so because of these health risks. There is no sign of any improvement in the situation on the part of the authorities."

Reports in the media show a growing body of evidence about the health risks of swimming in the Thames:

Henley - Boys sick after river swimming

Government information: swimming in the river thames can carry risk of gastrointestinal illness

My London: Kids paddling in raw-sewage

Telegraph: dangerous levels ecoli in henley sewage pollution.

Cambridge Journal: Large outbreak of gastrointestinal event

Government information: ThamesSwim - epidemiological report on outbreak of gastrointestinal illness

BBC London report

Medical Net News: Thames typical of superbug breeding rivers says new study

Bucks Free Press: Cookham man gets giardia swimming in Thames

See also other references:

David Walliams experience - The Guardian

Swimming in the Thames can carry risk of illness - Weybridge Rowing