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After following more than a thousand South Florida beachgoers for a year, experts at the University of Miami discovered an alarming trend among people who frequently swam in the ocean. Compared to non-swimmers, those who spent time in the water experienced more gastrointestinal illness, more respiratory problems, and a significantly higher rate of skin disorders, even though beach areas were clean and the water unpolluted.

The culprit? Microscopic bacteria that thrive in the sub-tropical water temperatures. Such bacteria can enter the body through ingestion or skin contact and could potentially upset the healthy balance of bacteria in the digestive tract, which is essential for optimal digestion and immune function.

Experts warn that the harmful bacteria may pose a particular threat for children as well as older adults who may be lacking in healthy gut bacteria, and recommend taking the following precautions if planning a day at the beach:

  • Avoid swallowing ocean water.
  • Do not swim if you are ill, have diarrhea or open wounds.
  • Shower and wash your hands before and after swimming.
  • Take children on frequent bathroom breaks/diaper changes.

Research also shows that taking a daily high-potency probiotic supplement can help boost the numbers of good bacteria in the gut and help ward off potential harmful invaders. As a general rule, adults should look for supplement with at least 15 billion active cultures per once-daily serving.

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In a landmark decision last month the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency moved to finally ban the use of endosulfan in America, prompting health advocacy groups like the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) to applaud what they hope is the first step toward a global phase-out of the highly toxic chlorinated pesticide.

Banned already in more than 60 countries worldwide, endosulfan is used widely on vegetable crops and cotton and has been linked to birth defects and delayed sexual development in children, as well as an increased risk of developing autism. Although not considered a carcinogen, research shows that endosulfan may also contribute to certain types of cancer, in particular breast cancer.

Even though it was re-registered for use in the U.S. under the Bush administration in 2002, PANNA and others have been pushing to remove endosulfan from the market because of documented evidence of health damage to farm workers as well as people and wildlife living near exposed soil and water. The EPA is now working with the sole manufacturer of endosulfan in the U.S. to establish a timeframe that would allow farmers to come up with effective alternatives to endosulfan use.

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‡These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. The material on this page is for consumer informational and educational purposes only, under section 5 of DSHEA.

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