Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sand, Sharks and Stomach Aches

person buried in sand
don't bury yourself in sand! (photo by Jimee, Creative Commons license)

complied from several sources

Sand can be a lot more dangerous than you thought! That wonderful commodity of Michigan's Great Lakes beaches actually can be the cause of illnesses or even death.

Two years ago it was reported by the Dr. Bradley Maron of Harvard Medical School in the New England Journal of Medicine, that sand is actually more dangerous than sharks. In the U.S., from 1990-2006 there have been 12 fatal shark attacks, and 16 deaths due to collapsing sand holes. The average age of victims is 12 years.

Maron became interested in the topic in the summer of 1998 when he first witnessed a sand hole that collapsed burying a young girl. The girl was rescued successfully, but not all stories end so happily. Often the problem is made worse by people approaching the cave-in to help because sand is so unstable.

Now, a report from the Environmental Protection Agency and University at North Carolina states that playing in the sand can increase the likelihood of suffering from gastrointestinal disorders. There is often enough fecal matter in sand to give people diarrhea, rash, eye ailments, earache and infected cuts. Children are especially vulnerable since they tend to get sand in their mouths. It turns out that the risk increases for those who are buried in the sand, a popular beach activity.

There is one critical disclaimer for this study. All the sites included were at beaches within 7 miles of municipal waste discharges.

Neither of these reports should keep anyone from enjoying the beach! Just take a few precautions such as being careful with digging large holes in sand (on or off a beach), and wash up after a day of playing in the sand.

See Sand More Dangerous Than Sharks
See Digging in Sand Can Increase Health Problems
These links are checked on the date of the article. As the article ages, some links may become invalid

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Unknown said...

Yes, you make a very good point about sand being unstable and possibly a health hazard. It's something parents and children should be aware of.

Sharkbytes said...

Hi Lizzie- There are many sad stories of children playing in holes (and adults who don't shore up the sides, who should know better). Thanks for your comment.

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