CORVALLIS, Ore. (Dec. 22, 2008) – In the first study of its kind, scientists at Oregon State University (OSU) and the Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality have found that surfers unintentionally ingest 10 times more water than swimmers or divers, putting them at higher risk of contracting gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses when surfing in contaminated waters.
The study also suggests that because the water quality at Oregon beaches is significantly better than more popular surfing destinations, such as California, Hawaii, or Florida, the risk of GI illness is lower for people surfing the frigid waters of the Oregon coast.
“While the risk for Oregon surfers is not high for GI illness, our findings suggest that surfers who spend longer periods of time in recreational waters, or who surf in more contaminated locations, are likely to be at higher risk of contracting GI illnesses,” said David Stone, an assistant professor in the OSU Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology.
The study, funded by Oregon Sea Grant, used a Web-based survey to collect voluntary responses from 520 of the estimated 12,000 surfers in Oregon. Participants estimated the amount of water they ingest during a typical recreational day, and the researchers used historic water quality data collected at six popular surfing beaches to calculate the risk of infection from fecal bacteria using enterococci as an indicator organism.