A new study performed by the EPA has determined that playing in the sand at the beach can make you sick.
In an article titled “Digging in Beach Sand Linked to Increased Risk of Gastrointestinal Illness,” the EPA cites a intensive study performed by EPA researchers and other scientists which found that your risk of getting sick might increase after playing in the sand.
The EPA wrote:
People take certain precautions when they go to the beach. They apply sunscreen to avoid sunburn and stay away from big waves if they are not strong swimmers. But they do not usually worry about getting sick from digging or playing in the sand.
Unfortunately, beach sand could harbor even more harmful bacteria than nearby bathing waters. EPA researchers and their counterparts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Johns Hopkins University observed a positive relationship between sand exposure and gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses as a function of fecal microbial pollution in beach sand.
The EPA threw a total of 12 researchers at this crucial issue. They analyzed 144 wet sand samples and conducted 5,000 interviews with people who had been located.
But researchers couldn’t be completely sure that people weren’t getting ill from contaminated water, which has long been known to make swimmers sick. Most of those studied also swam in the water, and there was no increased risk of sickness among those who didn’t swim but who did play in the sand.
What’s more, you had to be playing in sand that had been contaminated. And, further diminishing the chance that you should now avoid building sandcastles, the beaches analyzed were less than two miles from a waste treatment plant outlet.
The researchers also made the apparently important discovery that “being buried in the sand generally showed a somewhat stronger association with GI illness and diarrhea than did just digging in the sand.”
The result of all this EPA led research?
People should “consider washing their hands or using a hand sanitizer after playing in the sand or water,” said EPA Environmental Public Health Division (EPHD) Epidemiology Branch Chief Timothy Wade Ph.D.
The study was published in the January 2012 issue of Epidemiology.