Guidelines for Risk of Illness from Beach Sand
Helena M. Solo-Gabriele, Ph.D.
University of Miami
NIEHS Grant P50ES012736
An NIEHS-funded researcher recently published reference levels for the risk of human illness from pathogens in beach sand. There are no U.S. federal guidelines for assessing when pathogens make beach sand unsafe.
The researchers used quantitative microbial risk assessment and Monte Carlo simulations to calculate beach sand pathogen levels corresponding to the 1.9 percent EPA reference risk for marine water, which is equivalent to 19 illnesses per 1000 swimmers. For beach sand, they calculated reference levels of about 10 oocysts per gram of Cryptosporidium, about five most probable number (MPN) per gram for enterovirus, and less than 1,000,000 colony forming units per gram for S. aureus.
They also measured pathogen levels in sand at a recreational beach in Miami that is affected by nonpoint sources of contamination and found that pathogen levels were lower than the calculated reference levels. The researchers say that more research is needed to evaluate the risk for skin infections associated with exposure to pathogens in beach sand.
Citation: Shibata T, Solo-Gabriele HM. 2012. Quantitative microbial risk assessment of human illness from exposure to marine beach sand. Environ Sci Technol 46(5):2799-2805.
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