Beach Pollution Increases Health Care Costs
Bacterial pollution at many Southern California beaches sickens as many as 1.5 million people annually and results in millions of dollars in public health care costs, according to a study released Monday, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Researchers from the University of California-Los Angeles and Stanford University examined data from 2000 on illnesses at beaches nationwide, including 100 miles of shore in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
The study finds that between 627,800 and 1,479,000 "excess" gastrointestinal illness cases occur at the beaches every year. Beach pollution results in health costs that range from $21 million to $414 million annually, depending upon which method of reporting researchers use, the study finds. Cost estimates include lost time at work and costs for medical treatments, doctor visits and other issues.
The main source of beach pollution is storm water runoff -- which contains oil, pesticides, and human and animal waste. Local governments "have resisted" complying with cleanup mandates because of high costs, the Times reports.
According to the study, cleanup in Los Angeles County would prevent between 349,000 and 804,000 gastrointestinal cases and save $13 million to $28 million annually in health costs (Polakovic, Los Angeles Times, 7/18).