Why are beaches a concern?
A beach is the sandy, pebbly, or rocky shore of a body of water. A beach can be an urban seashore, a freshwater lakefront, or an ocean beach. Beaches provide valuable habitat for plants and animals, recreation for millions of people, and protection from wind and waves for people living near the ocean.
While beaches are one of America’s top vacation choices, they can pose human health risks if the water is polluted. Swimming or playing in polluted water can cause minor or major illnesses, including stomach problems, fever, and meningitis. Polluted beach water can nourish algae blooms and make it unsafe to eat the fish or shellfish caught in the water. Trash or litter on a beach can hurt marine life and make it unsafe to walk on the beach.
At ocean beaches, strong surf and riptides can cause injuries to swimmers and surfers. Drowning is always a risk. For safe water recreation, visit beaches with lifeguards, learn to swim, teach children to swim, and never swim alone. Marine animals that sting, bite or secrete poisons may come near shore. Watch out for jellyfish and learn what creatures may be found in your region.
Because of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, overexposure to the sun at the beach can cause skin cancer, premature aging of the skin, cataracts, and weakened immune systems.
This description is based on the information found in the Web links listed with this topic.
Web Links from MedlinePlus (National Library of Medicine)
Water Safety (Recreational)
Beaches (Environmental Protection Agency)
Beaches: Frequently Asked Questions (Environmental Protection Agency)
Beaches: Human Health (Environmental Protection Agency)
Find Your Beach: Beach Advisories and Closings (Environmental Protection Agency)
Healthy Recreational Waters (World Health Organization)
Healthy Swimming (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Information on Gulf Coast Oil Spill for Parents and Community Members (Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units) (PDF — 196.01 KB)
Marine Debris (Environmental Protection Agency)
Rip Current Safety (National Weather Service)
Chemicals at the Beach
Are these chemicals in MY community?
Perchloroethylene (PCE, PERC)
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Last Updated: May 22, 2014