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Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Jun 4;16(11). pii: E1987. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16111987.

Beach Pollution Effects on Health and Productivity in California.

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Department of Geosciences and Environment, California State University Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90032, USA.
Department of Economics and Statistics, California State University Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90032, USA.


The United States (U.S.) Clean Water Act triggered over $1 trillion in investments in water pollution abatement. However, treated sewage discharge and untreated runoff water that are contaminated by fecal matter are discharged into California beach waters daily. Warnings are posted to thwart the public from contacting polluted coastal water, according to the California Code of Regulations (CCR). This paper evaluated the current policy by empirically examining the productivity loss, in the form of sick leave, which is caused by fecal-contaminated water along the California coast under the CCR. The findings of this study showed that Californians suffer productivity losses in the amount of 3.56 million sick leave days per year due to recreational beach water pollution. This paper also empirically examined the pollution-to-sickness graph that Cabelli's classic study theoretically proposed. The results of the research assure that the existing water quality thresholds are still reasonably safe and appropriate, despite the thresholds being based on studies from the 1950s. The weakness of the CCR lies in its poor enforcement or compliance. Better compliance, in terms of posting pollution advisories and increasing public awareness regarding beach pollution effects on health, would lead to a significant decrease in sick leaves and a corresponding increase in productivity. Therefore, this study advocates for stronger enforcement by displaying pollution advisories and better public awareness of beach pollution effects on health.


beach pollution; economic loss; fecal contamination; health burden; productivity

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