The Wall Street Journal (6/28, Landro) “Health Blog” reports that many environmental groups and public-health agencies are currently warning of growing risks of contracting disease at beaches and lakes because of contamination resulting from storm-water runoff, sewage pollution and other causes. The blog post mentions, for example, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported a significant increase in recent years in the number of illnesses and infections contracted through contact with recreational water.
The New York Times (6/28, A20, Foderaro, Subscription Publication) notes that a report on water quality at the nation’s beaches recently released by the Natural Resources Defense Council “has found that the number of closings and advisories from contamination concerns at New York State beaches rose sharply last year. It also warns that a new standard proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency could inadequately protect beachgoers.” The report notes that “the findings in New York were in line with the national picture, which showed heavy rains causing sewage pollution and storm water runoff and prompting the third-highest number of closing and advisory days since the group began tracking recreational water more than 20 years ago.”
The AP (6/28, Subscription Publication) notes that the NRDC report mentions that Tropical Storm Irene caused a number of problems for beaches last year, forcing some beaches to close or prompting warnings at a rate almost double that of the previous year due to concerns about pollution.
The New York Times (6/28, Slivka) “Green” blog reports that the most useful part of the NRDC report is “the group’s one- to five-star rating system for 200 popular beaches, based on the amount of water testing done at the beach, the number of closings because of poor water quality, how quickly it is closed on low-water-quality days and the issuing of advisories. A map released with the report allows beachgoers to search for beaches in their ZIP code and check the council’s assessment.”
The Los Angeles Times (6/28, Barboza) “L.A. Now” blog mentions that according to the report, the top source of contamination in recreational water “is runoff that is swept into the ocean by rainfall or irrigation, accounting for about 47% of the beach pollution last year. Beaches along the Gulf of Mexico continued to be hit with closures and advisories related to the 2010 oil spill.”
BLOGFINGER MEDICAL COMMENTARY: By Paul Goldfinger, MD, FACC
There are a variety of medical problems that can result from swimming in contaminated ocean water, especially when it has been polluted by raw sewage. Some of the problems can be quite serious, such as viral hepatitis. Less serious problems include skin, eye and ear infections. Bacterial gastroenteritis can be a big deal. If you get a gastroenteritis and if it doesn’t clear quickly or if you get high fever and/or chills, you should seek medical attention without delay. This problem is different from the run-of-the-mill typical viral gastroenteritis which is over in 24-48 hours. The bacterial type can be virulent and can result in a life threatening situation.
I believe the Jersey Shore beaches are monitored quite carefully.