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Beach Fecal Contamination More Potent In Sand Than Water, Study Finds‏

Beach Feet Sand

When many come across signs that a beach is closed due to contamination, they may think that it is safe to stay on the sand as long as they avoid the water.  This may not be the case according to a recent study reported in the American Chemical Society (ACS) journal Environmental Science & Technology, as according to the study, the sands along these coastal waters can show levels up to 100 times higher than the water, the ACS indicated in a release published on EurekAlert.

According to ABC News, researchers from the University of Hawaii recreated the contaminators of beaches and made models in which sand and water were tainted in equal parts with waste water.  Due to the difference in waste water bacteria’s rate of decay in water in comparison to sand, the researchers discovered that sand is not only capable of retaining the bacteria for longer, but also potentially capable of recontaminating the water.  The researchers indicated that further research is necessary in order to determine whether or not contaminated sand could end up being a source of contamination for water — the results of which could lead to the closing of more beaches.

The study’s findings indicate that microbial communities are capable of causing beach-goers to experience illnesses such as diarrhea, rashes, stomach aches or other gastrointestinal issues.

An infectious disease expert from Vanderbilt University Medical School, Dr. William Schaffner, said the study could lead to more attention from public health experts on the sand and not just the water when it comes to deciding whether beaches are safe for visitors.  “There’s a dynamic interface between water and sand,” Scaffner explained.  “Fecal indicator bacteria…die off more quickly than they do in the sand, at least some of them do,” said Scahffner.

Schaffner went on to indicate that beach-goers shouldn’t worry too much about it this summer, just as long as they lay a towel down on the sand if the beach is closed due to water quality.

An unrelated study has found fecal matter on toothbrushes in communal bathrooms.

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