Don't drink seawater

Ocean Waves: Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

When you are swimming in the ocean, you might want to be careful not to drink the water. First of all, that salty seawater doesn’t taste too good. But also, scientists just discovered that there are way more bacteria swimming in the ocean than they previously thought.

According to a study recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one liter of seawater can be home to over 20,000 different species of bacteria. This is about 20 to 100 times greater than previous estimates. Scientists now estimate that there could be between five and ten million types of bacteria living in the ocean.

The discovery was made possible by a new technique known as “454 tag sequencing” that allows for the quick identification of organisms. This technique allows them to identify thousands of kinds of unusual bacteria, which may have gone unnoticed in other research.

Dr Mitchell Sogin, from the Marine Biological Laboratory's Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative and Molecular Biology and Evolution, told BBC News that this biodiversity discovery “really points to our lack of knowledge and how much more there is to learn." There really is much to learn about the world around us.

So, next time you're swimming at the beach and you accidently take a big gulp of seawater, just think of the wide diversity of microorganisms you just swallowed.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Isabelle's picture
Isabelle says:

i dont think its that big of a deal if you accidently drink some sea water...i have drinken my share of sea water and nothing happened to me! I just wouldn't drink it on purpose.

posted on Mon, 08/07/2006 - 1:33pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i grew up in hastings and drank sea water by accident swimming all the time as a kid but that was in the 70/80.s and it never did anything to me ... ?

posted on Fri, 02/12/2010 - 4:21pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Sea water = salt water. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding you, but Hastings isn't exactly oceanfront property. ;)

Water from lakes could conceivably be contaminated with all sorts of stuff, but this article was about the bacteria found in sea water, not fresh water. (Not all lakes contain fresh water, though: the Dead Sea is one of the world's saltiest bodies of water. And from March 12 - October 24, 2010, SMM will be hosting an exhibit about the Dead Sea Scrolls. Curious about the science of the Scrolls? Check out the feature on Science Buzz.)

posted on Fri, 02/12/2010 - 5:02pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Does salt water affect us?

posted on Wed, 08/09/2006 - 7:36pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

yes it affects your kidneys

posted on Thu, 04/19/2007 - 10:29am
Elisabeth's picture
Elisabeth says:

Yes, salt water does affect us. An answer was found on The United States Department of Energy “Ask A Scientist” portion to their website. Professor Bill bluntly described why humans should not consume large amounts of salt water:

"Humans can’t drink salt water because the kidneys can only make urine that is less salty than salt water. Therefore, to get rid of all the excess salt taken in by drinking salt water, you have to urinate more water than you drank, so you die of dehydration."

However, humans do need salt in their diets (I would suggest an alternative source rather than seawater!). The appropriate amount of salt varies from individual to individual but an insufficient intake of salt may lead to fatigue and various illnesses. Mayo Clinic recommends between 1,500 and 2,400 milligrams of sodium (salt) per day.

posted on Wed, 08/09/2006 - 8:48pm
noslenil's picture
noslenil says:

when swimming in the ocean dose the body absorb salt through the pores in the skin?
dose salt in ocean salt water have the same effect as refined salt on the body if you are on a low salt diet ?

posted on Sat, 08/12/2006 - 9:17am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Does it affect sea animals if they drink the sea water with all the bacteria in it?

posted on Sat, 08/12/2006 - 10:52am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:


posted on Wed, 03/11/2009 - 8:20pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

There is one way that you can drink seawater. There is a process called desalination that evaporates saltwater. When the saltwater evaporates the salt is left behind. Then the water condensates as freshwater and is then able to drink.

posted on Tue, 11/21/2006 - 9:39am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Okay we can't drink saltwater, I get it. But what if we boiled it, could we drink it then?

posted on Fri, 02/23/2007 - 11:36am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

why does salt make us float?????

posted on Thu, 04/12/2007 - 10:40am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Can you drink boiled saltwater? from the jug?

posted on Wed, 04/18/2007 - 8:54pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

hmm good ? :)

posted on Thu, 04/19/2007 - 9:43am
keolopile's picture
keolopile says:

i want to know how a person who had water from the sea compared to the one who had fresh water will dehydrate.

posted on Fri, 08/10/2007 - 6:42am
bryan kennedy's picture

Here is a pretty good explanation of why you can't drink salt water.

posted on Fri, 08/10/2007 - 12:05pm
rob-dog's picture
rob-dog says:

if there is 5 to 10 million types of bacteria living in the ocean what are th wost of the knd of bacteria

posted on Mon, 10/22/2007 - 4:39am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

what can I do if I have accidently swallowed sea water at the beach.
Some heath tips

posted on Fri, 11/09/2007 - 12:21am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Well, no offence, but who in their right mind would drink sea water'

posted on Fri, 11/16/2007 - 2:56pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Whoever said,"whoever drinks water is an idiot" an idiot, what if you where stranded in the middle of the ocean, with no means of foods or drink, and didn't know when you would get rescued, why wouldn't you.

posted on Fri, 09/05/2008 - 1:12pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Well, in that situation people often do resort to drinking seawater. Here's why that's bad.

To survive indefinitely, you have to get the salt out of the water before you can drink it. Here's an experiment you can try to see how that's done.

posted on Fri, 09/05/2008 - 1:32pm
Rayce's picture
Rayce says:

because if you drink saltwater then you are dehydrating your cells and that will make you die even faster so if you were standed out there with no food or drinks then you should drink your urine that will keep you alive way longer
hope that helps :)

posted on Wed, 10/08/2008 - 10:43pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

well, whoever Isabelle is...I just wanna sai that it's not a big deal if you do drink the sea water accidentally when you're just at the beach and you have regular water to drink, but if you're stranded at sea...then you really shoudn't. When you drink it, the salt goes to your stomach and your kidneys have to get rid of the salt, and it has to use more water to do so.You just end up losing more water, then gaining.

posted on Wed, 10/15/2008 - 5:39pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I think that it's true there are many bacteria in the salt water, but I learned from my science class that your cells are affected by the salt, also. To equal the concentration of water inside the cell and outside it, some of the water molecules inside the cell move out of the cell. Your cells then get dehydrated and then you yourself get dehydrated. Therefore, you will soon die. I'm only in 7th grade, but i think what I have said is true.

posted on Mon, 11/03/2008 - 1:36pm
FatAsh's picture
FatAsh says:

I drink salt water all the time. And im just fine. All these idiots saying that its bad for you, are just a big bunch of hippies.

posted on Sun, 01/25/2009 - 9:27pm
Lauren's picture
Lauren says:

Sure, FatAsh everyone drinks 'salt water' because regular tap water does contain salts, but besides the accidental mouthful when surfing, swimming, fleeing from Jaws, too much 'salt water from the sea/ocean' with dissolved salts greater then 10,000 ppm will wreak havoc on the human body.

posted on Wed, 01/28/2009 - 2:42pm
vee by the sea's picture
vee by the sea says:

Go and look up constipation and sea salt. It will give you losts of different views.

posted on Thu, 02/05/2009 - 8:27am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I don't think that drinking seawater is too big of a deal unless you drink too much. Also, you don't want to intentionally drink seawater. If you drink a little by mistake, then that is probably ok. I have never tasted seawater myself.

posted on Mon, 02/16/2009 - 12:52pm
the exiled king's picture
the exiled king says:

Your right. Drinking just a little seawater is not going to hurt you, but a lot, or a little bit every hour can cause your kidneys to shut down because they can't process the salts. So, if your ever stuck at sea, don't even get started, because it will feel like your thirst is being quenched, but it can kill you.

posted on Mon, 02/16/2009 - 2:02pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

just dont drink seawater its nasty gross

posted on Mon, 02/16/2009 - 4:30pm
Singh's picture
Singh says:

we acutaly cant drink seawater because it causes a disorder called hypernatremia, this may occur with dyhydration, water deprivation, or excessive sodium in diet (which comes from seawater) or intraveneous fluids; causes hypertonicity of extracellular fluids, which pulls water out of body cells into ECF, causing cellular dehydration...some signs and symptoms of this are intense thirstm hypertension, eldema, agitation and convulsions....

posted on Sat, 02/21/2009 - 5:38pm
lol's picture
lol says:

can we die from it?

posted on Wed, 03/11/2009 - 8:14pm
Cammie Mudd's picture
Cammie Mudd says:

water is amazing and a really precious resource and we should use it wisley. I hear lots of things happening to our water like it's getting polluted and something needs to be done about it and i for one want to help but dont know how. just me thinking about sitting on my bottom and whatching TV when i could be helping the world hurts me. i want to help but dont know how

posted on Fri, 03/27/2009 - 1:01pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

ocean can kill you

posted on Sun, 04/05/2009 - 2:19pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

When I was 5, I went to Dominican Republic and I accidently took a gulp of water. It was gross and it tasted horrible!!!!!! =[ =[ =[ =[ =[ =[ =[ =[

posted on Mon, 05/04/2009 - 2:52pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

My 6 year old daughter swallowed sea water from brighton beach yesterday and has been thowing up all night and this morning with stomach pains and a rash.

posted on Mon, 09/21/2009 - 2:23am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

there are two main ways that I know of to desalinate sea water. One is through evaperation and condensation. It's a fairly long and slow process, but it does work quite well. Another method is through reverse osmosis. That is where you actually filter the water at high pressure through a fairly thick and tightly woven membrane. That is often the method used by seaside or sea locked communities that have few recources for fresh water. It isn't cheap, but it beats having water shipped in.

posted on Sat, 02/13/2010 - 6:56pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

OK just because scientists IDENTIFIED more bacteria types in the sea water does not mean that sea water has more bacteria than it had before people!

It's the same as it's always been.

posted on Sat, 04/10/2010 - 8:17pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i have Nephrotic Syndrome I'm trying to think back what I've done or anything that may have caused it has no one knows the thing i can think of last year i went to Florida where i swolled sea water could this be possible for some bacteria to have infected my kidneys

posted on Fri, 06/11/2010 - 2:00pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

it is a commonly known fact and any general practitioner can confirm that swallowed seawater can damage your kidneys. the salt concentration in the water is too much for your kidneys to cope with, it also extremely dehydrates you and can make you very ill.... it call cause vomitting, diarrhoea, dizzy spells..... they are just some of the nasty ones. it is highly recommendable not to drink sea water. obviously sometimes it can not be helped.... like in near drowning experiences when in a panic to try and get to the suface for air you can inhail and also swallow quite a large consumption of highly salty and bacteria filled water. so to take this lightly is not recommended. please be aware that telling someone it is safe to drink seawater is risking their health. trust me i know and found out the hard way. i nearly lost my life after almost drowning and consuming alot of sea water

posted on Tue, 01/11/2011 - 12:11am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I got a bad stomach ache from swallong sea water and I was wondering why I got it and I looked at articles stating it could be from swallowing sea in general I really don't know.

posted on Sun, 04/05/2015 - 7:38am
anonymous's picture
anonymous says:

Can the kidneys be healed after being affected by drinking too much of sea water?

posted on Fri, 05/01/2015 - 12:15pm

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