The American Chemical Society reports today that beach pollution is worst during a new and full moon.
A new study of 60 beaches in Southern California suggests that water pollution varies with the lunar cycle, reaching the highest levels when tides are ebbing during the new and full moon. The findings could help beachgoers and managers better assess the potential risk of swimming. The study is published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Alexandria Boehm of Stanford University and her colleagues at the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project found that in the full and new phases of the moon, levels of enterococci were higher at the vast majority of the beaches studied. Boehm found that during so-called “spring tides”, when water levels vary the most between high and low tides, a beach is twice as likely to be out of compliance with water quality standards. Spring tides are exceptionally high or low tides that take place during the full and new moons, but have nothing to do with the season of the year.
Beach managers can now use tides as they currently use rainfall to assess warnings, Boehm suggests. When it rains, managers recommend that swimmers not enter the water for three days. “They could also suggest that during spring tides — and especially spring-ebb tides — water quality is more likely to be impaired, and those who are risk-averse should avoid swimming,” Boehm says.
So, no more moonlit beach parties for all you West Coasters…unless you fancy a dose of the squits…you can always blame the barbecue chef.