Important legal notice
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Environment - Understanding the environment and the impacts of green technologies
“To study the risks to human health posed by bathing waters and to provide the scientific evidence required to develop valid standards and policies for safe bathing.”

The problem

Minor illnesses, such as gastroenteritis and respiratory tract infections, can be contracted from bathing in lakes, rivers and the sea. Although the general risks are well-established, there is insufficient evidence from European studies to develop valid standards for microbial contamination of bathing waters. This is especially true for Mediterranean waters and those of the EU’s newest Member States. The risks need to be properly documented and quantified, taking into account differences between marine and freshwater environments, in order to ensure safe bathing across Europe.

EpiBathe  Safe bathing waters for Europe


EpiBathe will investigate the health risks associated with bathing waters to support future reviews and revision of the EU’s Bathing Water Directive.

The project will:

  • Review the international literature and research on all health risks from bathing waters
  • Define gaps in current data that restrict the application of ‘evidence-based’ policy to European bathing water standards, and develop research protocols to fill the gaps
  • Undertake research across two bathing seasons, with the first epidemiological studies in the Mediterranean and Hungary
  • Produce a detailed policy interpretation of the findings

Contribution to policy development:

  • EpiBathe will undertake the research required to develop valid European bathing water policies and standards.
  • It will supply specific input tailored to the needs of the ongoing review of the EU’s Bathing Waters Directive (76/160/EEC).
  • The project will maximise the potential for credible European input to future harmonised World Health Organisation guidelines.

Project deliverables

  • Report on review of existing literature and research – June 2006
  • Database of epidemiological studies and report on meta-analysis of existing data – June 2006
  • Training package for partners involved in epidemiological studies – July 2006
  • Research results from studies of Mediterranean and Hungarian waters – January 2008
  • Final report and international workshop – November 2008


  • Project website, brochure and e-newsletter – from January 2006
  • Publication of results in major scientific journals – as available
  • Training workshop – July 2006
  • International workshop – November 2008
  • Links with professional bodies associated with partners – as opportunities arise

Technical information

Project acronym: EpiBathe
Project’s official full title: Assessment of Human Health Effects Caused by Bathing Waters
Research priority: Environmental assessment (soil, water, air, noise, including the effects of chemical substances)
Specific webpage:
Proposal/contract no: 022618
Start date: 1/12/2005
Kick off meeting: January 2006
Completion date: 30/11/2008
European Commission scientific officer: Tuomo Karjalainen,

Name: University College of Wales, Aberystwyth
Abbreviated name: UWA
Address: King Street, Old College, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Wales, SY23 3DB
Country: United Kingdom
Tel: 0044 1970 622 257
Fax: 0044 1970 621 753


Name: National Institute of Hygiene
Abbreviated name: NIH
Country: Hungary

Name: University of Rovira and Virgili
Abbreviated name: URV
Country: Spain

Name: National Public Health Service
Abbreviated name: NPHS
Country: United Kingdom

Name: University of East Anglia
Abbreviated name: UEA
Country: United Kingdom

Name: World Health Organisation
Abbreviated name: WHO (UN)
Country: Switzerland