Newsday reports that recent studies suggest that the nation’s beaches are filled with E.coli and other organisms that may threaten human health.
Scientists conducting the studies say E.coli may not be the only infectious worry. Richard Whitman, chief of the Lake Michigan Ecological Research Station, says that his research shows that “there are other pathogens.”
Whitman found that E.coli levels were 10 times higher in sand than in the water. The organisms can gain entry into the body through any opening, especially the eyes, ears and mouth. In addition to infection, swallowed water contaminated with high levels of certain organisms can trigger gastrointestinal symptoms.
Ocean waves are more likely to carry bacteria away from the shore. In lakes, the water is more stagnant and the risk of bacterial growth is higher, which is why more lake areas get closed due to contamination.
Federal public health laws currently only mandate the testing of water. The nonprofit Clean Beaches Council wants public health laws to include the testing of sand. The Environmental Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also expressed interest in testing sand.
Walter McLeod, president of the Clean Beaches Council, advises parents to make sure their children are washed down when leaving the beach, and make sure they keep their hands out of their mouths, ears and eyes.