They may look pristine, but one in 10 US beaches is ripe with enough bacteria to make you sick. New research shows 10% of coastal and lakefront beaches fail to meet the Environmental Protection Agency's water-safety standards and swimmers could develop a stomach bug, conjunctivitis, pink eye, or even respiratory illnesses and neurological disorders, Time and the Natural Resources Defense Council report. The worst places for pollution? The Great Lakes, the Gulf Coast, and New England.
The research from state beach coordinators at nearly 3,500 beach testing locations around the country found most of the pollution comes from stormwater runoff, which picks up garbage, oil, and human and animal waste before it ends up in oceans. But climate change, a lack of federal policies, and hundreds of billions of gallons of untreated sewage pouring into the water isn't helping matters. Time points out that in 2012, nearly 2,000 beaches were closed as a result of pollution—in New York and New Jersey alone. (Read more conjunctivitis stories.)