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Contaminated Beachwater May Be Hazardous To Your Health

Summer has arrived and so many of us are headed for the beaches that line the coasts of the United States as well as those of our inland waters, such as lakes and rivers. There are plentiful healthcare concerns for beachgoers. These include sunburn, drowning, jellyfish stings, sprains, strains, and cuts and bruises. What perhaps doesn’t receive as much attention as it deserves is ocean water quality – specifically, whether or not the water is contaminated by environmental toxins and/or harmful bacteria.

Nearly a year ago, reports circulated in the press that indicated that at least 7% of beach water samples in the U.S. exceeded acceptable (from a health perspective) levels of bacteria. A writer for the New York Times reported, “The number of beach closings and health warnings issued to swimmers as a result of pollution fell in 2007 from a record level in 2006,” according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). But the writer continued that the NRDC noted “that American beaches ‘continue to suffer from serious water pollution that puts swimmers at risk.’” He cited that the NRDC analyzed “data obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency on more than 3,500 beaches,” revealing “that beaches across the country closed because of pollution or issued pollution-related health advisories for a total of more than 22,000 days in 2007, down from more than 25,000 days in 2006.”

A reporter for the Los Angeles Times wrote that the NRDC found that “Los Angeles County is home to the dirtiest beaches in the state (California), with repeat offenders Avalon on Santa Catalina Island and Santa Monica among those with the highest levels of fecal bacteria in ocean water.” Overall, the NRDC found that, “Illinois has the most coastal beaches in the country with water samples exceeding acceptable levels of (potentially harmful) bacteria, such as E. coli.”

The NRDC posts an informative page on beach pollution. The major takeaway is that the beachgoer should be well aware of the current situation with regard to pollution or contamination of any body of water for which human entry is contemplated.

Here is the status of the federal Beach Protection Act of 2008, as reported by OpenCongress:

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This post, Contaminated Beachwater May Be Hazardous To Your Health, was originally published on by Paul Auerbach, M.D..

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