One in 10 Americans May Get Sick from Swimming this Weekend

NRDC Offers Five Simple Steps for Safe Summer Fun
Washington, DC (May 24, 2007) -- Across the country, millions of Americans are heading to the beach this Memorial Day weekend for the start of the summer beach season.

What they may not realize is that as many as one in 10 beachgoers may get sick from swimming in polluted water, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Experts estimate that as many as 7 million Americans get sick every year from drinking or swimming in water contaminated with bacteria, viruses or parasites. Illnesses include a wide range of diseases, such as ear, nose and eye infections; gastroenteritis; hepatitis; encephalitis; skin rashes; respiratory illnesses; fever; chills; and nausea.
“A day at the beach shouldn’t have to turn into a night in the bathroom,” said Nancy Stoner, director of NRDC’s clean water project.
NRDC offers Americans five simple steps for safe summer fun this Memorial Day weekend:
Sand– Pick a beach that is tested regularly for cleanliness and that notifies you when it is unsafe to go in the water. NRDC surveys beach water quality data every year, so visit to find out if your favorite beach is a beach bum or a beach buddy.
Surf– Just because the waves are blue doesn’t mean the water you’re wading in is healthy for you (or marine life). Help keep your water clean and visit to take action today.
Swim– Wait at least 24 hours to swim at the beach after a heavy rainfall—particularly if you have cuts or scratches. Overflowing sewage or contaminated stormwater can run off into our coastal waters after rain, flooding our favorite swimming beaches with dangerous pollution. NRDC is helping homeowners, businesses, and cities design smart solutions to curb stormwater runoff. Visit to learn what you can do to reduce and capture runoff.
Sun– Opt for traditional zinc oxide sunscreens that appear white, and avoid sunscreens that boast of “nano” or micro ingredients. Sunscreens that go on clear often contain nano particles of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide that are absorbed more easily by the skin and the body. But no one knows if these nanoparticles are toxic to you or have harmful environmental impacts, and manufacturers aren’t required to label products that contain nanoparticles. NRDC is working to keep these and other harmful chemicals off the market.
Seafood– Eat fish and seafood with low levels of mercury. Tuna and other large predatory fish like swordfish contain levels of mercury that can cause serious health problems, especially for children and pregnant women. Visit to print out NRDC’s free wallet guide to mercury in fish to help you make healthier eating choices. You can also estimate your mercury levels with our online calculator and print out sustainable seafood recipes from top chefs.