In light of recent media reports warning of E. coli contamination in the sands of many of the nation's beaches, the American Council of Science and Health has issued a tongue-in-cheek warning to people, "Don't eat the sand."
In reality, the chances of contracting E.coli poisoning from sand are slim, according to the Facts and Fears section of the council's website.
"In order to have a chance at contracting this strain, one would have to physically grab a handful (maybe several handfuls?) of sand and eat it, as ingestion is the normal pathway E. coli takes to get into our bodies," wrote Krystal Wilson, a research intern with the council.
Beaches all over the country frequently close due to fecal contamination; a day at the beach can be ruined if septic systems overflow or malfunction, or if a lot of birds happen to be in the neighborhood.
But Wilson said there are many safety issues to consider at the beach, but E.coli poisoning isn't one of them.
"It would be much more efficient for the media to stress the importance of wearing protective clothing, using sunblock, and water safety," Wilson added.