Beach contamination is costly; chlorinated pools may elevate asthma risk

As many as 1.5 million swimmers and surfers get sick every year from bacterial pollution at Southern California beaches, according to a new study by researchers at UCLA and Stanford. The chief cause of dirty ocean water is storm runoff laden with oil, pesticides, and human and animal waste; it can trigger stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. Local governments have resisted cleanup mandates due to cost; cleaning up runoff that flows into Santa Monica Bay during summer, for instance, would cost between $1.5 million and $3 million. But the new study indicates that beach cleanups could save $13 million to $28 million in annual health costs in Los Angeles County. “It’s expensive to address urban runoff, but the costs of not addressing it are even higher,” said Jonathan Bishop of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. Parents who elect to avoid beach contamination and take their kids to indoor pools won’t find any better news there: a Belgian study suggests that children who swim in chlorinated indoor pools may have an increased risk of developing asthma. Excuse us, we have to go change out of our bikinis now.