Wednesday, July 4, 2007

I'm going to sue my parents

Sun, sand, sea and surf - the four Ss that spell the idyllic summertime vacation that most of us dream of. But wait, there's danger lurking in this gentle scene... No, it's not the scary shark fin cruising the ocean waves - it's the killer sandcastles.
Yes, research in the New England Journal of Medicine found sandcastles are more deadly than sharks - 16 deaths in the US since 1990 were caused by sandcastles, according to Harvard Medical School's Bradley Maron. Compare that to the measly 12 fatalities from shark attacks. Jaws is looking pitifully like a soft-touch.
The main hazard appears to be people lethally falling into holes they had dug - presumably for the moat - which means the sandcastles of America must be on a far more impressive scale than the ones I'm used to.
Alarmingly, in addition to the prospect of being consumed by their architecture, the bucket-and-spade brigade are at risk of infection from fecal matter. A study published this week in Environmental Science and Technology, found strains of E. coli bacteria that indicate unhealthy levels of fecal matter on US freshwater beaches and around Lake Superior. Yuck.
The researchers found two broad types of E. coli in the sand: those "deposited more recently", as team member Michael Sadowsky put it, and those "that have learned to kind of grow or reproduce in the sand," he said. Microbes survive longer in the sand than they do in water, they found, so you may want to wash after a day at the beach.
(from New Scientist)

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