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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/.

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Costume Designer Colleen Atwood Took Unlikely Path To Hollywood Royalty

Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood knows tough times. A single mom at 17 who once worked at a French fry factory to make ends meet is Hollywood royalty today. A favorite of director Tim Burton, Atwood is now costume designer for his adaptation of the darkly comic, Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children and the upcoming Harry Potter prequel, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
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Carnegie Deli Says It Is Closing Down Its Landmark NYC Restaurant

As news of the closing rippled far beyond the deli's home turf in Manhattan Friday, hundreds of people responded with sadness and disbelief.
NPR

The VA Will Now Pay For Fertility Treatment For Wounded Vets

Congress has reversed a law passed in 1992 that prohibited the Department of Veterans Affairs from paying for IVF for veterans and their families, after mounting political pressure.
NPR

The United Nations Is Launching A Space Mission

The U.N. is planning to send its first spacecraft into orbit, packed with scientific experiments from countries that can't afford their own space programs.

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