Circling sharks and empty air tanks may haunt scuba divers' imaginations, but ordinary microbes are a far more probable hazard. A new study takes a stab at quantifying the risks that waterborne bacteria and viruses pose to divers.
While scientists regularly measure bacterial concentrations in waters used by beachgoers, they don't test all the sites visited by divers, surfers, and kayakers. What's more, researchers don't know how much of the water these people swallow, says microbiologist and mathematical modeler Jack Schijven of the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment in Bilthoven, the Netherlands.
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