I recently spoke with a fellow prospector who had been panning at 70th and Washington while wearing the usual knee-high rubber boots. While walking in the creek, water splashed into both boots. Within a day or so, he noticed a rash appear on his legs. His doctor thought bacteria in the creek water might have caused the rash.
In the summer of 1999, I heard a doctor talk about the hazards of hiking in the mountains. He strongly suggested that you should wash your hands before handling any food products, even if all you did was walk through brush or touch any grasses, and especially if you had touched any stream water. He stated that bacteria grow well in the moist mountain areas and can easily transfer from brush or stream water to your hands and then to the food you touch. There are several good antibacterial waterless soaps available at the drug store. They come in gel form and in towelette packets.
We all know not to drink from the stream without proper treatment of the water, but maybe we should consider other protection as well:
- Wear tall enough boots to avoid water getting into them.
- Wear longer gloves to avoid water getting to your hands.
- Use the waterless antibacterial soap before eating (this applies to smokers, also).
- Bathe when you have finished panning or prospecting.
- Wash the clothes you wore while prospecting.
It is a shame that our beautiful streams may be harmful to our health but the fact is, they are and we must take precautions to protect ourselves.