CORAL GABLES, FL (April 11, 2012)--On warm days, the beach seems an ideal destination for family rest and relaxation. Who hasn't built a sand castle or been buried up to the neck in sand? However, that family fun has a dark side -- sand can harbor illness-causing microbes. Unfortunately, there are no guidelines for sand quality at recreational sites.
Now, environmental scientists at the University of Miami (UM) and at Northern Illinois University have created a reference guide for potentially harmful germs in sand, similar to the guidelines set by the US Environmental Protection Agency for marine water. The report is published in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology.
"These values can be used by beach managers to make decisions concerning sand quality," says Helena Solo-Gabriele, professor in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at the UM College of Engineering and principal investigator of this project. "That way, when regulators are faced with a decision about a potential health risk, there is a guideline available with which to decide whether or not the levels of microbes found in the sand are cause for concern."
Dogs, birds and cats visiting a beach are common sources of bacteria in the sand. "Exposures to high levels of certain microorganisms could cause gastrointestinal illness in humans, while infectious risks vary in different microorganism," says Tomoyuki Shibata, assistant professor in the Public Health Program and Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability, & Energy, at Northern Illinois University and first author of the study.
The researchers wanted to determine what levels of bacteria, or pathogens, found in beach sand could pose a health risk for beachgoers, explains Solo-Gabriele, who is also Co-PI of the Oceans and Human Health Center at the UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS).
"The environments in the s
|Contact: Annette Gallagher|
University of Miami