There are increasing alarm signs for beachgoers and swimmers to take into consideration this summer.
The latest of them places fecal matter bacteria as the top concern of health authorities, after several studies drawing on strong evidence stated that fecal bacteria invaded waters and the sand alike.
The newest research features in the Environmental Science and Technology ACS journal Environmental and looks specifically at sand being contaminated with fecal bacteria, reaching 10 to 100 times the levels of fecal bacteria found in the water.
Different rates of bacterial deterioration seems to be the answer to why sand is now a more dangerous environment than the close-by waters.
Researchers from Clemson University took to the laboratory to create a mimic of seawater and sand contaminated with fecal bacteria. They followed the bacterial population over time, paying attention to the deteriorating timeframes of each.
While fecal bacteria in the water deteriorated more rapidly, it tended to linger for longer in the sand.
“The differential decay of waste water bacteria in beach sand and in seawater provides a kinetic explanation to the often-observed higher abundance of fecal indicator bacteria in beach sand,” stated the study.
According to the researchers, the most common contaminants in the water are fecal coliform bacteria. These are labeled by the scientific community as indicator bacteria, typically suggesting the presence of other harmful pathogenic bacteria that can severely affect one’s health.
Particularly children, the elderly and those with a low immunity system are predisposed to symptoms of infection if they accidentally swallow the contaminated water or fine sand particles driven by the breeze.
Fecal coliform bacteria resides in the feces of humans and other animals. While some are harmless, others can bring a bundle of health complications that beachgoers and swimmers would not give a thought to under normal conditions.
Waters and sand infected with fecal bacteria might be responsible for gastroenteritis, dysentery, typhoid, ear infections, severe diarrhea, hepatitis A and in rare but potentially lethal cases, cholera.
The contamination of the beach sand and waters is inevitable. For this reason, periodic water and sand tests are being conducted to check whether the fecal coliform bacteria are above the limits imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Photo Credits tampabay.com