WEDNESDAY, June 25, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Swimmers, take
heed: Ten percent of water samples taken from U.S. coastal and lake
beaches fail to meet safety standards set by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, a new report finds.
"There can be hidden dangers lurking in many of our waterways in the form of bacteria and viruses that can cause a great inventory of illnesses like dysentery, hepatitis, stomach flu, infections and rashes," Steve Fleischli, water program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said at a Wednesday morning press conference.
Of nearly 3,500 samples taken annually at beaches around the
country, Great Lakes beaches have the highest failure rate, with
excessively high bacteria levels, the defense council said.
This finding confirms that water pollution caused by storm-water
runoff and sewage overflows persists at many U.S. beaches, the
Storm-water runoff often includes trash, chemicals, oil and
animal and human waste as well as bacteria and viruses.
"It's really all of our urban slobber going untreated into local waterways," Fleischli said.
Still, the agency singled out 35 popular "superstar" beaches
that have excellent water quality.
Each of these met national water quality standards 98 percent of
the time over the past five years. They include:
The 17 "repeat offenders" that continue to have serious water
pollution problems include:
In the Great Lakes, 13 percent of samples failed to meet federal
public health standards, the researchers said.
Other regions with excessively high bacteria in swimming water
samples include: the Gulf Coast (12 percent), New England (11
percent), the western coast (9 percent), New York and New Jersey
coasts (7 percent), and the southeast (7 percent).
States with the highest failure rates include: Ohio (35
percent), Alaska (24 percent) and Mississippi (21 percent).
For cleaner water, try the Delmarva Peninsula area on the East
Coast, where 4 percent of samples failed the test.
Three states had a failure rate of just 3 percent: Delaware, New
Hampshire and New Jersey, the researchers found.
As many as 3.5 million Americans are sickened from contact with
raw sewage overflows each year, according to the EPA.
"The elderly and little kids are most likely to fall prey to contamination in the water because of their weaker immune systems," Fleischli said.
"Children are also more likely to dunk their heads under the water or swallow water when swimming, both of which increase risk," he added.
Under the federal Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal
Health (BEACH) Act, states must test beach water for bacteria. When
bacteria levels are too high -- such as after a heavy rain --
beaches may be closed or people might be advised not to swim.
More than 10 trillion gallons of untreated storm water,
including billions of gallons of untreated sewage, find their way
into America's waterways each year, the EPA said. Historically,
this is the largest known source of beach water pollution.
The best way to prevent beach water pollution, said the defense
council, is to invest in "smarter, greener infrastructure on land,
like porous pavement, green roofs, parks, roadside plantings and
Such improvements enable rain to evaporate or filter into the
ground instead of being carried from dirty streets to beaches.
To see the full report visit the
Resources Defense Council.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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