Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Don't assume the sand is safe

Scientists from the University of Miami and Northern Illinois University develop guidelines to assess risk of illness from sand at recreational sites
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 sand and water are very different," said Solo-Gabriele. "The sand provides more protection against the effects of solar radiation, which has a tendency to inactivate microbes in water. Sand may also protect microbes from predators (other microbes) that are found exclusively in water."

To develop the guidelines, the scientists ran one million simulations of the number of microbes in each gram of sand, the transfer of sand from hand to mouth and the ingestion rate. The researchers determined the risk of having 19 cases per 1,000 beachgoers--the level used by the EPA for swimming in marine recreational waters.

The team also documented the levels of pathogens found in the sand at Hobie Cat Beach, in Miami. The findings indicate that levels of harmful microbes at the beach site were low, when compared to the reference levels and therefore safe for beachgoers.

However, studies have shown that children have a higher illness risk than adults from beach and sand exposures. For that reason, the researchers will now focus on studies of kids' play behavior in sand, to better estimate the acceptable levels of microbes that can cause diseases in children.

"Parents of young children don't need to overreact to our findings and they can reduce their child's infectious risk by basic hygiene practices such as hand washing before eating or drinking and taking a shower," said Shibata.
The report is titled "Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment of Human Illness from Exposure to Marine Beach Sand." The study was funded by the National Science Foundation through the Oceans and Human Health Center, at UM RSMAS.

The University of Miami's mission is to educate and nurture students, to create knowledge, and to provide service to our community and beyond. Committed to excellence and proud of the diversity of our University family, we strive to develop future leaders of our nation and the world.

Annette Gallagher | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Advanced analysis of brain structure shape may track progression to Alzheimer's disease
26.10.2016 | Massachusetts General Hospital

nachricht Indian roadside refuse fires produce toxic rainbow
26.10.2016 | Duke University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>