Even without a headline-grabbing accident like the BP oil spill in 2010, the water along the country's coastlines is constantly subjected to different pollutants, man-made or otherwise. That's why, every year the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) takes samples from America's beaches and tests them for toxins that could have dangerous consequences for existing wildlife and eager beach-goers.
But, the NRDC not only takes stock of the pollution levels in the water. It also pays close attention to how local authorities react to high contamination rates, and what measures they take to keep the public informed and protected. According to the figures, in 2011 there were 23,481 reported beach closing and advisory days, which is the third highest number recorded in 22 years. The NRDC found that about two thirds of the issued warnings involved dangerous amounts of bacteria from animal or human waste in the water.
These levels are cause for concern because the EPA has found that 3.5 million Americans develop illnesses because of contact with raw sewage annually. In addition, the Center for Disease Control has also discovered a correlation between exposure to polluted water in recreational areas and the development of gastrointestinal infection in the Great Lakes area.
In this year's report, the NRDC determined that 8 percent of the monitored beaches had higher levels of toxic matter than national health standards for the recreational areas allowed, which is identical to last year's findings.
And, though this a fairly small percentage of America's beaches overall, the researchers conclude that their discoveries still show that water pollution continues to pose a threat to Americans who flock to the nation's public waters.