I’ve never liked beaches. I don’t like the way sand infiltrates everything and I hate the sticky, burning feeling of salt water on my skin. The fact that, as a child, the beaches we went to often included a windy road that triggered my carsickness only increased my hostility to the darn things. I do go to beaches with my family and with friends, but only reluctantly — and you’ll never hear me propose the outing. Well, it turns out that I may inadvertently have been keeping myself and my family safe from harm at the microbe level:
As many as 1.5 million people are sickened by bacterial pollution on Southern California beaches each year, resulting in millions of dollars in public health care costs, a new study has found.
The study prepared by researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles and Stanford University is believed to be the first to examine illnesses at a large swath of the nation’s most popular beaches. Previous studies have linked health problems to contamination at individual beaches.
“This helps us understand (the) risks and identify beaches where cleanup can yield the most benefit,” said Linwood Pendleton, an environmental economist at UCLA and an author of the study.
The study, posted Monday on the Web site of the journal Environmental Science and Technology, covers 100 miles of shoreline in Los Angeles and Orange counties, which is visited by an estimated 80 million people annually.
The study found that between 627,800 and 1,479,200 “excess” cases of gastrointestinal illness occur at the beaches each year. That is beyond the number that would normally be expected.
Of course, I’m not in Southern California, but I suspect the statistics are pretty similar for most beaches near major urban areas.
All I can say is give me a nice, clean, warm swimming pool any old day.