Web Zap*Germs Archive

July 25, 2005

Beach Sand Holds More Bacteria Than the Water

I know summer is really here in the US when I see numerous articles announcing beach closings because the water has tested positive for E. coli or other bad bugs. But a new study by the Clean Beaches Council says that beach sand can contain five to ten times more bacteria than the water. And this bacteria can last for weeks to months.

From a USA Today article:
The possible effect of contaminated sand on children is of particular concern, says [CBC president Walter] McLeod. Kids spend more time playing and digging in damp beach sand — which scientists say harbors more bacteria than the top, dry layer.

Currently, there is no conclusive evidence linking exposure to beach sand to illness. "We don't have sufficient data to understand the health implications," says McLeod, whose group is urging government agencies and scientists to further study and monitor beach sand.

Meanwhile, he advises beachgoers to take away any food and drink they bring with them. Birds leave more droppings on beaches if they are regularly swooping in for edible litter, McLeod says.

[Biologist Richard] Whitman [station chief at the Lake Michigan Ecological Research Station of the U.S. Geological Survey] also suggests that parents tell kids to keep hands out of their mouths while digging in the sand, and that everyone wash hands thoroughly after a day at the shore.
Does Whitman have kids, I wonder? After a trip to the beach, my crew needs a total hose-down, not a handwash!


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