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California Beach Water Quality Update, July 20-06

California beach quality varies and beach visitors are smart to check the water quality before arriving at the beach.

Come on in; L.B.'s water is fine
Problems associated with dirty beaches unusual here.
From staff and wire reports

LOS ANGELES - As many as 1.5 million people are sickened by bacterial pollution on Southern California beaches each year, resulting in millions of dollars in public health care costs, a new study has found.

Study results:

Water Quality at SoCal Beaches

Beaches at Doheny, Malibu, Marina del Rey, Cabrillo and Las Tunas had the worst water quality, while Newport, Hermosa, Abalone Cove, Manhattan, Torrance and Bolsa Chica had the best.

Incidence of illness at SoCal Beaches

The three beaches with the lowest incidence of gastrointestinal illness were San Clemente's city beach, Nichols Canyon and Las Tunas, largely due to a smaller number of visitors.

The study prepared by researchers at UCLA and Stanford University is believed to be the first to examine illnesses at a large swath of the nation's most popular beaches. Previous studies have linked health problems to contamination at individual beaches.

"This helps us understand (the) risks and identify beaches where cleanup can yield the most benefit," said Linwood Pendleton, an environmental economist at UCLA and an author of the study.

The study, posted on the Web site of the journal Environmental Science and Technology, covers 100 miles of shoreline in Los Angeles and Orange counties, which is visited by an estimated 80 million people annually.

The study found that between 627,800 and 1,479,200 "excess" cases of gastrointestinal illness occur at the beaches each year. That is beyond the number that would normally be expected.

Gastrointestinal illness is most commonly associated with swimming in contaminated water and causes such symptoms as stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. The study did not examine the prevalence of other illnesses associated with polluted water, including eye, ear and nose infections.

Health care costs for illnesses related to beach bacteria range from an estimated $21 million to $414 million annually, depending on the method of reporting used, researchers found. Those estimates include direct losses, including missed work, medical treatment costs and doctor visits.

The study focused on 28 beaches during 2000. Researchers used bacteria measurements from surf, considered beach attendance estimates and extrapolated the health effects using two computer models - one favored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the other by the World Health Organization.

The study is expected to be published Aug. 15, 2006.