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Safer to Play in the Sand? Maybe Not

February 06 2012 | Water Quality, Illness,
by Rick Wilson

Some parents concerned about exposing their children to polluted water at the beach may advise their kids to stay on the beach and play in the sand.  According to a new EPA study, that may not always protect them from getting sick. Testing at beaches in Alabama and Rhode Island, EPA researchers observed a positive relationship between sand exposure and gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses as a function of fecal microbial pollution in beach sand. It should be noted, however, that both of these beaches were located less than two miles from a sewage treatment plant outfall pipe.

So, what is a parent to do?  First, if possible, pick a beach that is not near an obvious pollution source like a sewage plant outfall, a river mouth, or a flowing storm drain.  Second, if one of these features, like a storm drain, is on your beach, pick a location that is far away from it.  Lastly, as pointed out in the article,

"The symptoms we observed are usually mild and should not deter people from enjoying the beach, but they should consider washing their hands or using a hand sanitizer after playing in the sand or water." 

Didn't your mother always tell you to wash your hands before eating?  She was right.

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