Bird droppings, road runoff, and raw sewage are just some of the contaminants present at your local beach—and the reason playing in the sand could be hazardous to your health, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. A new study, which assessed the health of more than 27,000 beach-goers over 4 years, found individuals who played in the sand had a greater risk of diarrhea and gastrointestinal illness than those who stuck to their towels.
It's safer to read a trashy novel, walk the shore, or even swim than to play in the sand—people who partook in those activities had lower rates of illness. Disgustingly enough, the researchers theorize that sickened sand-handlers get small amounts of fecal matter from the sand on their hands, which then makes its way into their mouths. “The beach is not a sterile environment,” said the study’s lead author.