Posted on 29th May 2014
Scientists are appealing for people across the country to help in new research that’s hoping to shed light on how marine pollution can affect health.
Researchers at the Centre have teamed up with Surfers Against Sewage to conduct the study, which will help to assess the risk of illness people face when they visit beaches across the country.
From 2nd June 2014 the team are asking adults living in England and Wales to respond to a short online survey, answering questions about their health, visits to the beach, and whether or not they’ve been in the sea.
PhD student Anne Leonard is leading the project and wants as many people to take part as possible:
“This study is all about understanding risks. In order to do this we need lots of people to respond, whether they’ve been to a beach or not. Anyone aged 18 or over can take part – either online or using a smartphone.”
Over recent years concern about the cleanliness of coastal water and its possible adverse effects on health has led to tighter regulations and monitoring of seawater at popular beaches. As a result, the water quality of beaches across the UK has improved, with 99% of the 608 designated bathing beaches meeting mandatory European standards last year.
To test water quality, the Environment Agency takes one water sample from each beach roughly once a week during the bathing season, which currently runs from 15th May to 30th September each year.
The project’s senior researcher, Dr William Gaze, said:
“We know that water quality at a single beach can vary enormously throughout the day and at different points along its length. By comparing the health of those who’ve been in the sea with those who haven’t, we’re hoping to gain an insight into the risks of coastal bathing – and an understanding of whether this risk is reduced at beaches that are classified as safe by the current monitoring procedure.”
Surfers Against Sewage’s Campaign Director, Andy Cummins says: “Surfers Against Sewage is delighted to be working with experts at the University of Exeter Medical School. We want to establish a more detailed understanding of how marine pollution is affecting the health of recreational water users, so that everyone can make the most of this fantastic natural resource.”