A tourist floating in the Dead Sea
A tourist floating in the Dead Sea on May 20, 2010. Photo by Reuters
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Israel's Dead Sea, commonly thought of as a safe haven for those unable to swim due to its high concentration of salt, is apparently more dangerous than people think.

A report published on Wednesday by Magen David Adom, Israel's national emergency medical service provider, debunks the widely held belief that one cannot drown while swimming in the Dead Sea.

Any tourist who has had the chance to experience one of the world's saltiest bodies of water can attest to the lightness and buoyancy that one feels while going for a dip. The Dead Sea's water has a 33.7% salinity, close to nine times more salty than the world's oceans, which allows one to float in the water without trying, as if on an invisible raft.

Yet according to data from the report, swimming in the Dead Sea can be just as dangerous as swimming in any other body of water in the country. Of the 117 near-drowning incidents that paramedics have attended to since the start of 2010, 17 percent have been at the Dead Sea. One man drowned this year in Ein Bokek, located in the southern part of the Dead Sea.

In 2009, paramedics tended to 45 incidents of near-drowning in the Dead Sea, which is twice the number of near-drowning incidents in both the Sea of Galilee and the Red Sea combined.

The Chairman of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva, Professor Yaniv Almog, explains how drowning in the Dead Sea differs from how one may drown in a normal body of water.

"Most people don't simply drown in the Dead Sea. They lose their balance and fall for whatever reason and end up swallowing large amounts of water."

Professor Almog says swallowing large amounts of the water, with its extremely high levels of salt, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous, can cause serious lung inflammation.

Two weeks ago, a 58-year-old man was brought to Soroka Medical Center in critical condition after nearly drowning in the Dead Sea. He had serious lung inflammation after breathing in and swallowing large amounts of the salty water. The happy ending to this story – he woke up this past Monday, just in time to see his daughter get married.