Your Health


Testing done last summer showed that nearly 20,000 beaches and swimming holes had polluted water. That's a record, according to a new report from the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council.

But NPR's John Nielsen says there are things you can do to lower your chances of getting sick when you swim.

JOHN NIELSEN reporting:

Go ahead and admit it. There are days when you've thought about ignoring a No Swimming sign because the water looked perfect. Admit it, but don't do it says Joan Rose, a water quality expert at Michigan State.

Dr. JOAN ROSE (Homer Nowlin Chair For Water Research, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University): People who swim in polluted water get respiratory disease, skin infections, ear infections - some cases eye infections. And they also get what we call gastroenteritis, a stomachache, diarrhea.

NIELSEN: Rule number two, according to Rose: even if there aren't any No Swimming signs up, stay out of the water after heavy rains. They can flush huge slugs of pollution out into the water. You might think this sewage spreads out in the ocean, but it doesn't, she says.

Dr. ROSE: It hugs the shore, basically. And that's how we get exposed.

NIELSEN: Rose says it also helps to make a point of swimming with your head out of the water, and when you pick a beach in the first place, check it out to see if it's a clean one. Contact a local health department. Look it up online.

Dr. ROSE: And say, did that beach have a lot of problems? So maybe I'll go to this beach or that beach.

NIELSEN: Rose says you can find some of that information on the Environmental Protection Agency's website. Most of the rest is in the NRDC's new Survey of Beach Closures and Advisories, which was published yesterday.

John Nielsen, NPR News, Washington.

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