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Study suggests one in 10 U.S. beaches not safe for swimming

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Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Thursday, June 26, 2014, 7:28 PM - If you plan on heading to the U.S. this summer, you may want to think twice before hitting the beach.

A new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) suggests that one in 10 recreational beaches south of the border isn't safe for swimming.

"Ten percent of all water quality samples collected last year from nearly 3,500 coastal and Great Lakes beaches in the U.S. contained bacteria levels that failed to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s most protective benchmark for swimmer safety," the NRDC says in a statement.

“Sewage and contaminated runoff in the water should never ruin a family beach trip,” NRDC senior attorney Jon Devine adds, “but no matter where you live, urban slobber and other pollution can seriously compromise the water quality at your favourite beach and make your family sick."

The agency is calling on government officials to finalize a water protection proposal that will help sustain clean beaches. In the meantime, NRDC has developed a mobile-friendly map of the 3,485 beaches in the U.S., allowing users to check the water quality before taking a dip.


RELATED: Great Lakes water quality suffering


Based on the national safety threshold, the Great Lakes region contained the highest failure rate of beach water quality, with 13 percent of the samples failing the 2013 test.

The Gulf Coast had a failure rate of 12 percent, followed by New England (11 percent), the Western Coast (9 percent), the New York and New Jersey coasts (7 percent), and the Southeast (7 percent).

According to the NRDC, up to 3.5 million people become ill from contact with sanitary overflows annually.

"Beach water pollution nationwide causes a range of waterborne illnesses in swimmers including stomach flu, skin rashes, pinkeye, ear, nose and throat problems, dysentery, hepatitis, respiratory ailments, neurological disorders, and other serious health problems," The NRDC says.

"For senior citizens, small children and people with weak immune systems, the results can even be fatal."

Guidelines for Canada's recreational water quality safety can be found on Health Canada's website.

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