PSE Workshop: Rianna Murray, "The Anacostia River, Recreation, and Health: Is there an Association Between Limited-Contact Recreation and Adverse Health Outcomes?"
The Anacostia River is a highly polluted tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. A number of problematic sources, including littering, industrial runoff of heavy metals and toxic compounds, and combined sewer overflows that discharge raw sewage, have contributed to the highly contaminated state of the river. Toxic chemicals such as Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrobarbons (PAHs), heavy metals, and other compounds have been released from toxic facilities along the river as well as other point and non-point sources. Despite this conamination, many people utilize the river for limited-contact recreational activities, such as kayaking, canoeing, boating and sport fishing. In previous research, a survey of 197 limited-contact recreational users of the Anacostia River asked questions on demographics, recreational habits, the degree of water exposure experienced while recreating, health outcomes and perceptions of river quality and pollution. This survey allowed a database of recreations users to be established and produced statistically significant associations between certain socio-demographic factors and incidence of gastrointestinal illness. Valuable information has also been gleaned regarding how well informed recreationalists are of the risks they face while recreating, the ways in which recreational users of the Anacostia obtain their information about river contamination, and what methods they believe are best for information dissemination. This work will be expanded in order to conduct an exposure assessment to further investigate associations between exposure to water while recreating on the Anacostia River and adverse health outcomes through a prospective cohort study design. Together, these results can help to inform risk communication efforts for this population in order to reduce unhealthy exposure and allow for safe recreation.