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Prevalence and distribution of fecal indicator organisms in South Florida beach sand and preliminary assessment of health effects associated with beach sand exposure



Prevalence and distribution of fecal indicator organisms in South Florida beach sand and preliminary assessment of health effects associated with beach sand exposure



Marine Pollution Bulletin 54(9): 1472-1482



Fecal indicator levels in nearshore waters of South Florida are routinely monitored to assess microbial contamination at recreational beaches. However, samples of sand from the surf zone and upper beach are not monitored which is surprising since sand may accumulate and harbor fecal-derived organisms. This study examined the prevalence of fecal indicator organisms in tidally-affected beach sand and in upper beach sand and compared these counts to levels in the water. Since indicator organisms were statistically elevated in sand relative to water, the study also considered the potential health risks associated with beach use and exposure to sand. Fecal coliforms, Escherichia coli, enterococci, somatic coliphages, and F(+)-specific coliphages were enumerated from sand and water at three South Florida beaches (Ft. Lauderdale Beach, Hollywood Beach, and Hobie Beach) over a 2-year period. Bacteria were consistently more concentrated in 100g samples of beach sand (2-23 fold in wet sand and 30-460 fold in dry sand) compared to 100ml samples of water. Somatic coliphages were commonly recovered from both sand and water while F(+)-specific coliphages were less commonly detected. Seeding experiments revealed that a single specimen of gull feces significantly influenced enterococci levels in some 3.1m(2) of beach sand. Examination of beach sand on a micro-spatial scale demonstrated that the variation in enterococci density over short distances was considerable. Results of multiple linear regression analysis showed that the physical and chemical parameters monitored in this study could only minimally account for the variation observed in indicator densities. A pilot epidemiological study was conducted to examine whether the length of exposure to beach water and sand could be correlated with health risk. Logistic regression analysis results provided preliminary evidence that time spent in the wet sand and time spent in the water were associated with a dose-dependent increase in gastrointestinal illness.

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Accession: 016742174

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 17610908

DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2007.04.016


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