News Stories

Danger on the Beach!

It's not the sun, it's the SAND - Who would have thought it? Children and adults who buildcastles and dig in the sand at the beach are at greater riskof developing gastrointestinal diseases and diarrhea thanpeople who only walk on the shore or swim in the surf.

People who playfully bury their bodies in the sand are ateven greater risk. Children, who are more likely than adultsto play with and possibly get sand in their mouths, standthe greatest chance of becoming ill after a day at the beach.Researcher Chris Heaney says, "This is one of the firststudies to show an association between specific sand contactactivities and illnesses."

The problem is fecal contamination that washes onshore. But where does it come from? The study is based on interviews with more than 27,000 people who visited seven freshwater andmarine beaches between 2003 and 2005 as well as in 2007. Allbeaches in the study had sewage treatment plant dischargeswithin seven miles, although the source of sand pollutionwas unknown and could have included urban runoff as well aswild and domestic animal contamination. Water quality at thebeaches was within acceptable limits.

Researcher Tim Wade says, "We have known for some time thatswimming in waters polluted by fecal contamination canresult in illness, but few previous studies have focused onsand. People should not be discouraged from enjoying sand atthe beach, but should take care to use a hand sanitizer orwash their hands after playing in the sand."

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Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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