beach safety, water safety, bacteria in sand, sand, summer safety

Study Reveals Dirty Sand Can Cause Illness

July 21, 2009 05:30 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have found that sand at the beach can be just as germ-ridden as water.

A Hidden Danger at the Beach

Summer beachgoers have another hazard to contend with: sand. According to Eric Nagourney of The New York Times, researchers from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill have found that sand can "contain high levels of fecal bacteria, and that people who dig in it could develop gastrointestinal illnesses."

For the study, a group of researchers led by Christopher D. Heaney contacted 25,000 people ten days after they had visited beaches "within seven miles of sewage treatment plants." Researchers found that people "who dug in the sand ... were significantly more likely to report having been sick." Those who were buried in the sand became most sick, and children were found to have a higher risk of developing illness, such as diarrhea or vomiting, according to Nagourney.

To ward off bacteria, Heaney recommends thorough hand washing before eating at the beach, Nagourney reported.

A parent interviewed by KFMB-TV in San Diego said, "We're not going to be afraid of coming to the beach and do what the kids like to do, but probably be a little bit more cautious of washing hands and being careful with that."

A video segment on KFMB-TV provides additional details, including some causes of the polluted sand: bird droppings, sewage and urban runoff. Although only North Carolina beaches were tested for the study, other beaches are subject to the same dangerous bacteria, KFMB-TV asserts.

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