What could possibly go wrong on a trip to the beach? We'll tell you.
With just one full month left of summer, now is the time to hit the beach if you haven't already. If you have the time, the means and the access, there's just no excuse not to have some fun in the sun.
Science, however, is no stranger to spoiling a good thing. Just look at what it's done with fried food, violent video games and football. Can science spoil your fun this year and give you enough reasons to never go to the beach ever?
The beach isn't likely to attract any sunbathers given how much trash lives its shores.
You wouldn't sunbathe at the junkyard, yet millions of people every year dump their garbage at the beach. The accumulated cigarette buds, bottles, food wrappers and other trash means that millions of pounds of trash is lining ocean beaches.
That garbage accumulation is fatal to wildlife, killing over a million sea birds and thousands of marine mammals and turtles every year.
And a lot of the trash that's there now won't be leaving anytime soon. A plastic bottle cast into the ocean would take 450 years to decompose. If that bottle is made of glass instead, the single piece of trash would need about one million years to decompose, according to an Ocean Conservancy press release from 2008.
This researcher is collecting a sample of beach water to test for human waste.
If garbage isn't enough to keep you out of the water and off the sands, how about the presence of human waste?
According to a study published in the Environmental Science and Technology in 2007, 91 percent of beaches sampled between Mexico and Oregon tested positive for fecal indicator bacteria.
When you're building a sand castle, these little bacteria are taking up residence inside it as well as your hands and maybe even your intenstines.
The presence of human waste and garbage in the sand means that a warm beach on a summer day is just as enticing for disease-carrying bacteria as it would be for the otherwise unaware sunbathers. Put simply: Beach sand can make you sick.
A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology four years ago found that children and adults digging in beach sand were more likely to develop gastrointestinal diseases and diarrhea than those who walked along the shore or swam instead.
E. coli bacteria lurking in the sand is what causes the illness, though infection is preventable simply by rinsing off sand thoroughly immediately after a beach visit.
A seashell makes for a much better beach souvenir than a staph infection.
Staying in the water can be just as unhealthy as playing in the sand you end up with a bacterial infection from a day at the beach.
Tests conducted by University of Miami researchers in 2009 at public ocean beaches in Florida found that swimming in subtropical marine waters increased the risk of exposure to staph bacteria by 37 percent. This is especially troubling for anyone entering the water suffering from an immune deficiency or an open wound.
Fortunately, of the bacteria samples analyzed, only 3 percent showed the presence of the virulent antibiotic resistant staph known as MRSA.
Norovirus, pictured here, can lead the stomach and intestines to become inflamed.
Bacteria aren't the only microscopic organisms floating in the water that you want no part of. Viruses that can lead to a range of ear, eye, gastrointestinal and respiratory infections may also be floating all around you when you take a dip in the water.
A team of European researchers taking 1,410 samples from nine countries found the presence of viruses nearly 40 percent of the time. Adenoviruses, which can cause respiratory infections, ear infections and conjunctivitis, were detected in 36.4 percent of the samples. Noroviruses, responsible for causing gastroenteritis, turned up in 9.4 percent of the time.
A rip current may not look like much from above, but you wouldn't want to see it from below.
More dangerous than anything that could be lurking in the water is the current itself.
Rip current are responsible for more than 100 deaths a year and account for some 80 percent of lifeguard rescues, according to the U.S. Lifesaving Association. They can also pull swimmers into the water at a rate up to 8 feet per second, faster than any human could possibly hope to swim.
Red tide blooms not only add a dash of unwanted blood-red coloring to an otherwise pristine blue ocean; these algae blooms can also kill marine life and make you sick. Harmful algal blooms occur at beaches across the nation, though one of the largest and best known takes over Florida's Gulf Coast annually during the summer months.
These algae produce toxins that can kill fish, make shellfish dangerous to eat and make the air dangerous to breathe, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A 2007 study published in the journal of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), found that inhaling the aerosolized red tide toxins for just an hour, which can cause eye irritation, coughing and wheezing in a healthy person, can lead to serious respiratory problems and decreased lung function in an asthmatic.
A ''bucket brigade'' of workers removes oil from Ao Prao beach on Koh Samet island.
An oil spill would scare away tourists from any beach vacation destination.
Last month, 13,200 gallons of crude oil leaked from an offshore pipeline in Thailand, making its way to the shores of Ao Phrao beach on the island of Ko Samet. Beachgoers rightly fled the area, cutting short their vacations.
Exposure to crude oil can irritate the eyes, skin and respiratory system, and cause dizziness, headaches and confusion among other symptoms, according to the National Library of Medicine.
The sun rays can do a lot more than cause a burn if you're out too long.
With the height of summer upon us -- in the Northern Hemisphere anyway -- the sun's rays are stronger than it would be during other times of year. Even with some kind of sun protection, staying out for extended periods can lead to burns -- or worse.
Sun poisoning is a severe form of sunburn that, in addition to the stinging and peeling of a typical sunburn, also comes with nausea, fever, dizziness, headache and loss of consciousness among other symptoms.
Skin cancer begins as a tiny melanoma on the epidermis.
One trip to the beach isn't going to kill anyone; but a lifetime of a beach trips, particularly without the appropriate application of sun protection, can prove deadly.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, affecting around half of all American who make it to age 65. Although skin cancer is almost always curable if detected early, malignant melanoma still claims thousands of lives a year.
According to a study published in 2009, children taken on beach vacations starting at a young age face a higher risk of developing skin cancer later in life.