Abstract

Taiwan is surrounded by oceans, and therefore numerous pleasure beaches attract millions of tourists annually to participate in recreational swimming activities. However, impaired water quality because of fecal pollution poses a potential threat to the tourists' health. This study probabilistically characterized the health risks associated with recreational swimming engendered by waterborne enterococci at 13 Taiwanese beaches by using quantitative microbial risk assessment. First, data on enterococci concentrations at coastal beaches monitored by the Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration were reproduced using nonparametric Monte Carlo simulation (MCS). The ingestion volumes of recreational swimming based on uniform and gamma distributions were subsequently determined using MCS. Finally, after the distribution combination of the two parameters, the beta-Poisson dose–response function was employed to quantitatively estimate health risks to recreational swimmers. Moreover, various levels of risk to recreational swimmers were classified and spatially mapped to explore feasible recreational and environmental management strategies at the beaches. The study results revealed that although the health risks associated with recreational swimming did not exceed an acceptable benchmark of 0.019 illnesses daily at all beaches, they approached to this benchmark at certain beaches. Beaches with relatively high risks are located in Northwestern Taiwan owing to the current movements.

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