A record number of pollution advisories and closings at U.S. beaches were reported last year. But there's good news as well as bad in that statistic, according to a Natural Resources Defense Council survey to be released Thursday.
The council found that the total number of pollution problems that were at least reported to the public, or even forced closing of beaches to swimmers, was 7,236 in 1998, or 75 percent higher than in 1997.
The increase was in part due to greater efforts by states and local governments to monitor beach quality, report the results to the public, and participate in surveys of U.S. beach quality, the council says.
States and local governments that lack regular monitoring of beach quality for swimmer safety make it to the council's "Beach Bum" list. The list still includes Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oregon, Washington and Texas, as well as Florida's Panama City Beach.
The senior attorney of the National Resources Defense Council, Sarah Chasis, told CBS This Morning that the problem is that if you hit one of these beaches, there is no way for you to know if the water is clean or polluted.
"The type of pollution we're concerned about are pathogens. These are disease causing organisms you can't see with the naked eye. That is why monitoring is important," Chasis says.
The most common form of illness that people can get from swimming in polluted water is gastroenteritis, Chasis says, adding, "it can be nausea, diarrhea, stomachache. They can come down with upper respiratory infections and skin rashes. People should not have to worry about getting sick when they go to the beach."
Among those who made the council's "Beach Buddy" list for implementing a reporting system to warn swimmers away from problem beaches are Cape May, New Jersey; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; the Outer Banks' ocean beaches in North Carolina; Old Orchard Beach in Maine; and Warren Dunes, Michigan.
The full NRDC report is available at the council's Web site.