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Sci Total Environ. 2019 Feb 15;651(Pt 2):2400-2409. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.10.137. Epub 2018 Oct 11.

Are our beaches safe? Quantifying the human health impact of anthropogenic beach litter on people in New Zealand.

Author information

1
Environmental Research Institute, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand; Harry Butler Institute, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia, Australia. Electronic address: marnie.campbell@murdoch.edu.au.
2
School of Science, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Electronic address: Linda.peters@waikato.ac.nz.
3
Harry Butler Institute, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia, Australia. Electronic address: Cameron.McMains@murdoch.edu.au.
4
Harry Butler Institute, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia, Australia. Electronic address: M.campos@murdoch.edu.au.
5
School of Psychology, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Electronic address: Rebecca.sargisson@waikato.ac.nz.
6
AquaEquis Consulting, Armidale, New South Wales, Australia.
7
Harry Butler Institute, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia, Australia; School of Science, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Electronic address: Chad.hewitt@waikato.ac.nz.

Abstract

The environmental, social and cultural importance of beaches permeates human society, yet the risk of human injury associated with increasing exposure to anthropogenic beach litter remains an unknown. While the impact of marine debris and beach litter on marine and coastal fauna and flora is a widely reported global issue, we investigate the impact on human health in New Zealand. Anthropogenic beach litter is ubiquitous, few beaches remain pristine, which consequently influences tourist choices and potentially negatively interacts with humans. Human impacts are not well-investigated, with no quantitative studies of impact but many studies qualitatively inferring impact. New Zealand has a socialised medical system allowing a quantitative, decadal assessment of medical insurance claims to determine patterns and trends across ecosystems and causes. We demonstrate for the first time that anthropogenic beach litter poses a common and pervasive exposure hazard to all ages, with specific risk posed to young children. The New Zealand system allows these hazards to be investigated to determine the true effects and costs across a nation, providing an evidence base for decision-makers to address this ubiquitous environmental issue.

KEYWORDS:

Beach management; Environmental values; Human health; Marine debris; Pollution; Water quality

PMID:
30336429
DOI:
10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.10.137
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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