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New study tallies economic cost of drownings off Great Lakes beaches

August 30, 2021
By Source: University of Windsor

Aug. 30, 2021, Windsor — Drownings off beaches along the Great Lakes costs the economies of Canada and the United States more than $130 million a year, finds a team of researchers at the University of Windsor.

Geographer Chris Houser, dean of the Faculty of Science, and economics professors Marcelo Arbex and Christian Trudeau collaborated on the study, which was published in the journal Ocean and Coastal Management.

Their research assessed the long-term economic impact of drownings due to waves and currents, a toll that is over and above the additional costs of emergency services and hospitalizations related to drownings.

The study used an actuarial calculation referred to as the Value of a Statistical Life Year expressed in Canadian dollars, and is intended to help policy-makers with decisions such as whether to hire more lifeguards or invest in public education about beach safety, Houser said in a University of Windsor news story.

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There are about 50 drowning deaths each year associated with near-shore waves and currents in the Great Lakes, with 74 people dying in surf-related drownings last year. The University of Windsor notes that many of the fatalities were adolescents and children.

The researchers estimate the total economic burden of surf-related drowning fatalities over the past 10 years to be in excess of $1.3 billion, which Houser noted in the story, does not take into account the emotional impact and thus full human toll of surf-related drownings.

Most surf-related drownings occur on beaches without lifeguards, or on supervised beaches at times when lifeguards aren’t on duty.