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A Guide To The Cleanest And Filthiest U.S. Beaches

If you thought sharks were the scariest threat at the beach, you might consider the lowly bacteria lurking in shore waters instead.

For the 22nd year in a row, the Natural Resources Defense Council has issued a report on the nation's filthiest and cleanest beaches. And the group found that the number of days beaches were closed or under health advisories last year hit 23,481. That total is the third-highest in the report's history, only one notch better than last year's results.

Bacteria in the water are the main safety issue. The group's beach ratings factor in various potential health hazards, including pollution levels and the quality of beach monitoring.

In findings that echo rankings released in the last few years, Avalon and Doheny beaches in California and several beaches in Louisiana were among the worst — again.

Newport and Bolsa Chica beaches in California, Hampton Beach in New Hampshire and Gulf Shores Public Beach in Alabama were lauded for keeping dangerous bacteria levels low and aggressively monitoring water quality. In all, 12 beaches got 5-star ratings from NRDC.

Despite the group's reports, there's been little improvement in water quality. "The rate at which beach samples are worse than the recreational national standards is static," NRDC's Jon Devine said in a briefing about the findings. "Unfortunately, what we think that indicates is a real need for policy shifts to move those numbers."

Harmful water bacteria often come from animal or human waste. The germs can cause diarrhea, skin rashes, stomach flu and respiratory problems. The risks are higher for young children, according to the report, who generally spend more time swimming and dunk their heads underwater more often.

Most of the pollution is caused by stormwater runoff and wastewater treatment overflows. The NRDC advocates improvements in the environment to absorb rainwater, including green roofs and more parks.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Lisa Lucas Takes The Reins At The National Book Foundation

Lucas is the third executive director in the history of the foundation, which runs the National Book Awards. Her priority? Inclusivity: "Everyone is either a reader or a potential reader," she says.
NPR

The Shocking Truth About America's Ethanol Law: It Doesn't Matter (For Now)

Ted Cruz doesn't like the law that requires the use of ethanol in gasoline. So what would happen if it was abolished? The surprising answer: not much, probably.
WAMU 88.5

The Latest on the Military, Political and Humanitarian Crises in Syria

Russia continues airstrikes in Syria. Secretary Kerry meets with world leaders in an attempt to resolve the country’s five-year civil war. A panel joins Diane to discuss the latest on the military, political and humanitarian crises facing Syria.

NPR

Do You Like Me? Swiping Leads To Spike In Online Dating For Young Adults

A study by the Pew Research Center finds the use of online dating sites has mushroomed in the past few years, particularly among 18- to 24-year-olds.

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