WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WWAY) -- Add another thing to worry about when you head out to the beach. No, it's not the sun. It's the sand.
A new study from the EPA suggests that playing in beach sand could lead to some unwanted symptoms, like diarrhea and vomiting.
There's nothing like spending a day at the beach -- the sun , the water, the sand and…. the toilet?
According to a new study by the Environmental Protection Agency, playing or digging in the sand can put you at risk of illnesses like diarrhea and nausea.
"I never thought about the sand before," Julian Mealy said.
Mealy loves coming to the beach, but he admits he never considered what may be in the sand before hearing about the EPA's new findings.
Researchers tested more than 140 samples of wet sand from two beaches looking for bacteria indicators of fecal contamination. They also interviewed nearly 5,000 visitors to those beaches asking them about their contact with the sand, swimming habits and other beach activities. Two weeks later researchers contacted beachgoers again and asked about any diarrhea, vomiting, nausea or stomach pain since their beach visit.
Researchers concluded that digging and playing in contaminated beach sand puts people at higher risk of getting sick than swimming or tanning.
Mealy says he's never gotten sick from a day at the beach.
"No, I haven't, but my wife came out Saturday, and she's home right now suffering," he said.
Mealy says his wife was picking up sea shells.
But while some may think the study may be on to something, others say they are not worried about the reported risks.
"We don't need the government to tell us everything and every little thing," beach visitor Sterling Jernigan. "We can protect ourselves to, we have common sense."
Speaking of common sense, the EPA suggests beach goers wash their hands or use hand sanitizer after playing in the sand or water.
Despite some of the researchers being from UNC Chapel Hill, the beaches involved in the study are in Alabama and Rhode Island.
As for our area beaches, towns like Wrightsville Beach only test the water for bacteria.
We talked to one researcher involved in the study by phone. He said another study may soon take place and will focus on North Carolina beaches.