Most of us are aware of water quality concerns when playing at the beach. It turns out that certain areas of sand might contain more bacteria than the water.
Studies have shown that not only can E.coli can live in moist sand, it can thrive and grow. Beach goers that played by digging in the sand were more likely to develop beach related illness (such as gastrointestinal and skin infections) than beach goers who swam in contaminated water. Those that buried themselves were even more likely to report signs of illness. Of the thousands of people surveyed, those that played in the sand were survey were over 3 times more likely to develop water related illness.
Concentration levels of E.coli vary at the beach and each beach surveyed had its own risks. Sand at fresh water beaches host more bacteria than sand in marine beaches. The 3 – 4 foot strip where water meets the sand have the highest concentrations, up to 100 times the amount of bacteria found in the water. Waders run a higher risk of developing a beach related illness than swimmers as ankle deep water hosts more bacteria than knee deep water and much higher than chest deep water. Children are at the greatest risk, possibly because they are more likely to ingest sand and contaminated water than adults.
More studies are being conducted to determine if similar testing protocol for testing water quality should be used for testing sand. In the meantime one thing is certain. Wash with soap and water after you play at the beach regardless of if it’s in the sand or water. Rinsing with clean water will reduce the amount of E.coli by 90%, and adding soap to the mix will decrease your chance of becoming ill even more.
© Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, 2011 - 2018