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Untreated human sewage teems with salmonella, hepatitis, dysentery, cryptosporidium, and many other infectious diseases. One hundred years ago, epidemics of these diseases helped limit the life expectancy of a U.S. citizen to about 50 years. Estimates vary for how many people sewage still sickens or kills each year, but they are all large. Germs linger even after the stench of sewage has dispersed. Healthy adults may never realize that yesterday's swim caused today's cough, diarrhea, or ear infection.

Young children, their grandparents, and people already weakened by illness are more likely to become seriously ill or die. Scientists believe as many as 3.5 million Americans get sick each year after swimming, boating, fishing, or otherwise touching water they thought was safe.

A 1998 study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology blamed water pollution for one-third of all reported gastroenteritis cases and two-thirds of all ear infections. So…just which ten rivers are typically the most polluted? Of course the list changes from year to year, but the ten below typically rank high.

On the list below you will see the name of the river and the states most responsible for the polluted conditions of the river.

1. Mississippi River TN, AR, LA, MO, IL, MN, WI, IA, KY, MS

2. Pacific Ocean OR, HI, CA

3. Ohio River IL, IN, OH, KY, WV, PA

4. Tennessee River KY, TN, AL 5. Houston Ship Channel TX

6. Ward Cove AK

7. Savannah River GA, SC

8. Delaware River DE, PA, NJ

9.Thames River CT

10. Grays Harbor WA It's not just the people who play in and around the water who are at risk. Between 1985 and 2000, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) documented 251 separate disease outbreaks and nearly half a million cases of waterborne illness from polluted drinking water in the United States. Another study by the CDC and the National Academy of Sciences concluded that most illnesses caused by eating tainted seafood have human sewage as the root cause.

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