They're some of the most popular beaches in the nation. They're also part of the nation's most populous coastline — and that means pollution. So is it safe to swim at the beach in New Jersey? Well ... things certainly don't seem to be improving, according to a recent report in the Asbury Park Press (see: "Water quality took a dive at the Shore this summer," by Russ Zimmer).

"Before summer is over, Jersey Shore beaches will have violated water-quality standards for safe swimming more often than anytime in the past five years, according to an Asbury Park Press analysis of more than 52,000 water samples taken from Shore beaches since May 2005," the paper reported. "In fact, the number of dirty samples is at its highest rate in New Jersey since 2009 — more than 1 in 25 this year are too high for swimming.

From 2013 to 2015, beaches in about 20 towns produced high samples each year, but it's been more widespread in 2016. The state tests beaches in 54 towns and so far in 2016 37 towns have had at least one unsafe test result."

But New Jersey's not the worst, the paper reported: "Despite these findings, New Jersey still ranks ahead of Florida, Massachusetts, New York and most other states when it comes to beach water purity."

What can happen? "Though no longer littered with needles and rarely touched by raw sewage, Shore beaches do still suffer sporadically from the effects of pollution in the form of animal (and sometimes human) waste," the paper reports. "Ingesting water mixed with these microbial menaces could result in a nasty stomach bug or itchy rash."

It's a concern, the paper reports, but nothing to panic about: "Most recently, seven Long Beach Island beaches were forced to warn bathers that bacteria counts in the water had jumped beyond safe limits, if only for a day. Nineteen beaches issued bacteria advisories in the first week of August, and two were later forced to close temporarily to protect public health. But don't go trashing your beach chairs just yet, New Jersey beaches are fine to swim or splash around in on most days, compared to most other states. Ocean beaches, as opposed to the more troublesome river or bay beaches, only come up dirty about once in every 100 tests."