Apparently, the sand at the beach can do more than simply serve as building material for little castles or find its way into the private recesses of your swimsuit-- it can also grow bacteria like a petri dish. This morning's Los Angeles Times reports on a new study of L.A. county beaches by UCLA that concludes, "The sand at some of the region's most popular beaches can be laced with bacteria even when the water is clean."
"It can actually grow in the sand," said Jennifer Jay, UCLA professor of environmental engineering who headed the study. "Even on days when the water is very clean, bacteria is still in the sand for a week. We feel it can be an important exposure route" for contamination.... Health standards for beach sediment have not been developed, however, so it is difficult to evaluate how much of a health risk these bacteria pose, Jay said.
Health officials have long known that microbes, mainly E. coli and enterococci bacteria found in fecal material, can reach harmful levels in ocean water. Urban runoff from city streets, farms and industries carries a witches' brew of pollutants that are concentrated to unhealthful levels around storm drains and river mouths. The new study, to be published in the forthcoming issue of the journal Water Research, adds to a growing body of evidence that health risks extend to the shore.
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But bear in mind, the survey was done on the filthy, godless beaches of Los Angeles. I'm sure there's nothing to worry about on the pristine and wholesome beaches of OC.