Summer Beach Safety

by on August 1st, 2012 at 9:07 am

The inviting rays of the glowing sun on your skin, the gentle roar of waves in the distance, and the pleasurable feeling of sand between your toes… What’s not to love about a day at the beach?

Unfortunately, there is a potential threat of unhealthy bacteria, according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)[1], with 2011 setting the third-highest record for the number of beach closures over the past 20 years.

The findings included significant water pollution, putting approximately 1 in 28 beachgoers and swimmers at risk for diarrhea, dysentery, pink eye, and other illnesses. The main causes of the high bacteria are said to include heavy storms and polluted waste runoff, in the form of garbage, oil and animal waste.  The cleanest beaches are said to be in the Southeast, with less than 3% of all beach closures, and the Great Lakes region to be the dirtiest[2].

To help reduce your risk, you can start by checking in with your local town or county health department and inquiring about beach water monitoring. If you suspect any contamination, be sure to report it there first. You can also check out the NRDC’s rating list, so you can choose the cleanest beach to attend. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Beaches Web site is also a helpful resource, offering a database of closures and advisories.

More safety tips from the NRDC include:

  • Helping keep beaches clean by properly disposing of trash in proper containers
  • Swimming away from urban areas or beaches next to open waters, as enclosed bays and harbors have less water circulation
  • Avoiding swimming in cloudy or foul-smelling water
  • Always swimming away from pollution sources such as pipes, outfalls and runoff ditches
  • Avoiding entering the water for at least 24 hours after heavy storms 

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[1] Natural Resources Defense Council, “Ratings of Popular Beaches,”

[2] Emily Main, “How Healthy Is Your Beach?”

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