Environmental Health and Safety

Illnesses that are caused by contaminated recreational beach waters or Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are a group of infections that are caused by consuming or breathing in droplets of contaminated water from pools, lakes, recreational swimming pools, rivers, beaches or oceans. A number of infections can develop from contaminated beach water including infection of the skin, gastrointestinal tract, eyes, respiratory tract, neurological system, wound, etc.

The most common RWI infection is diarrheal illnesses caused by the swallowing of the contaminated waters, and some of the common microorganisms that can cause RWI’s include Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, norovirus and E. coli, etc. Due to increase in the recreational use of waters, there has been a rise in the cases of RWI’s. In the beaches and the oceans, contamination mainly occurs from sewage disposal, animal fecal wastes, run-off water during heavy rainfall, and germs from the swimmer’s bottom that get rinsed off.

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Individuals at a higher risk of getting infected with RWI’s include children, pregnant women, people with immune disorders, elders, etc (CDC, 2010). Figure 1: Various RWI’s Cryptosporidium infection can result in involvement of the small intestine along with the development of diarrhea. Giardiasis is one the most common intestinal infections causing foul-smelling diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, etc. Shigellosis usually develops in children and is characterized by diarrhea with mucous or blood in stools and abdominal cramps. In some cases, E.

coli infection can result in severe diarrhea, abdominal cramps, bloody stools, and even kidney failure (Mayo, 2009). One major problem with the beach water quality monitoring is that it often takes time to get the test results of the water sample and due to this it may take time to issue warning signs to the general public. The time lag may vary between 24 hours to 12 hours depending on the type of testing done. Even if the test results are obtained negative, there may be constant weather and other condition changes such that the chances of risk are also altered.

Hence, it has been found that the Authorities would provide notification to the public based on information gathered 2 to 3 days back (EPA, 2009). Hence, there needs to be certain means adopted to overcome this problem:- • Timely monitoring of water • Faster methods of testing • Better means of communication of information to the public • Predictive warning based on previous encounters & using judgment (EPA, 2003). Figure 2: Meeting Challenges in Monitoring Beach Water Quality The main objective of the program would be to reduce the risk to the public from pathogen contaminated waters.

The current state of monitoring and surveillance of the beach water is rather insufficient and hence there is a need to improve the monitoring and ensure that a timely warning is given to the public. The public should be given information about the quality of beach water such that the people can make an informed decision before entering into the water and being in contact with risks. The program should have increased partnerships with other organizations and people who are able to provide prompt information about water quality.

Some of the modes of communication to the public include:- • Spreading awareness of the risks in and around the beaches • Daily information on media about the quality of water • A telephonic hotline wherein people can dial in and obtain information about water quality • Email newsletter to interested subscribers • Special training for lifeguards and other volunteers who are provided skills to identify risks to the public, warn the public and also inform the authorities • A beach water quality workshop for the public

• Posters and brochures • Communication the information to the department of helath and other health authorities (EPA, 2003) Figure 3: Modes of Communication of Beach Water Quality Some of the information that may be required for the public to make an Informed decision include:- • Level of the pathogenic organisms in the water along with corresponding harmless range • Areas which have high levels of pathogenic organisms and the duration till when these risks would be present

• What the risks present in the water can result in what type of helath problems • In case people have already been exposed to the risks, what should be done Figure 4: Information that needs to be provided to the Public References CDC (2010). Basics of Recreational Water Illness (RWI), Retrieved on June 3, 2010, from Web site: http://www. cdc. gov/healthywater/swimming/rwi/rwi-basics. html CDC (2010). Recreational Water Illness (RWI), Retrieved on June 3, 2010, from Web site: http://www. cdc. gov/healthywater/swimming/rwi/ Mayo (2010).

Diarrhea, Retrieved on June 3, 2010, from Web site: http://www. mayoclinic. com/health/diarrhea/DS00292/DSECTION=symptoms US EPA (2003). Time-Relevant Beach and Recreational Water Quality Monitoring and Reporting, Retrieved on June 3, 2010, from Web site: http://www. epa. gov/ORD/NRMRL/pubs/625r02017/beaches_complete. pdf US EPA (2009). Water Quality Criteria, Retrieved on June 3, 2010, from Web site: http://www. epa. gov/waterscience/criteria/recreation/

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