According to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, beaches in the United States are in a bad way. Beach closures from dirty water in 2010 were up nearly a third over 2009. Beaches were shut down for a total of 24,000 days, the second highest total in 21 years. The worst-affected area, Louisiana, was no surprise, and it's oil-spill-battered coastline and had a contamination rate of over 31 percent. But the most common cause of beach contamination is somewhat ickier: nationwide, high bacteria readings from human and animal waste is responsible for 70 percent of closures. "Going to the beach is a summer rite of passage but can also make you sick," says NRDC official David Beckman. Potential illnesses range from pink eye to hepatitis. Outside of Louisiana, the Great Lakes, California, Ohio, and Indiana all had significant contamination problems. Surprsingly, New Hampshire, with only 18 miles of ocean shoreline, has the nation's cleanest swimming.
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