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Health and Environmental Effects Research

National Epidemiological and Environmental Assessment of Recreational Water Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is U.S. EPA interested in recreational water?

People who swim in polluted waters are more likely to become ill with diarrheal diseases, as well as eye, ear, skin and respiratory infections. As a result, pollution in fresh and marine recreational waters has increasingly raised health concerns in the minds of beachgoers and public health officials. Over the past 30 years, the U.S. EPA has had a pivotal role in water quality and safety of recreational beaches. The U.S. EPA wants to understand why people get sick at the beach and how we can prevent illness.

2. Why is the NEEAR Water Study important?

The U.S. EPA initiated the NEEAR Water Study (National Epidemiologic and Environmental Assessment of Recreational waters) to test new water quality indicators and methods to see if they more accurately determine illnesses in swimmers. Once we develop new standards to measure water quality, we can alert people of unsafe swimming conditions.

3. Who is doing the study?

This health effects study will be conducted by the U.S. EPA in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

4. Who is eligible to participate in the study?

The study will enroll families who spend time at Great Lakes or ocean beaches in the United States. Young children are especially important because they tend to swallow more water when they swim and are more likely to experience severe illness compared to adults.

5. How will the study be done?

Families will be interviewed on the beach about a variety of activities including swimming. Families will be contacted 10-12 days following a visit and asked about their health. Each of the interviews will take about 15 minutes.

6. How will the NEEAR Water Study benefit my family and other beachgoers?

As the study results are released and the health effects evaluated, your family will develop a better understanding of the environmental conditions in your community that may impact water quality conditions on our beaches. This new information will allow the EPA and each family to better protect the future health of our Nation's beachgoers. Also, because time is important to everyone, families who participate in the NEEAR Water Study will receive a fun gift upon completion of the beach interview and $25 after completion of the telephone interview.

7. How can the participants find out about the results?

For more information, email us at neear_water_study@epa.gov or call us at 1-888-422-3072 (8:00am-4:30pm Monday thru Friday).

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