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Brazil's world-famous beaches now hazardous to health due to human pollution

Brazil beaches

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(NaturalNews) People are doing more than just relaxing on the sands of Brazil's breathtaking beaches and because of their bad habits, the beaches are fast-becoming a contamination nightmare, laden with human health hazards. Ironically, it's the humans themselves that are responsible for creating a problem that could jeopardize their health.

What's happening as reported by The Municipal Environment Agency is that many beachgoers -- particularly at Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana and Ipanema beaches -- are leaving their trash behind. In turn, birds and animals are attracted to the area. The beaches then turn into a dangerous mixture of trash and animal droppings, a situation which dermatology experts in the country say has unfortunately been growing over the past five years.

So serious is this pollution that dermatologists are actually already warning people to avoid contact with the sand in these areas.

Beach sand, dangerous microorganisms and the impact on health

"Trash and dog and bird droppings become a breeding ground for microorganisms - fungi as well as bacteria and viruses - and humans can get all kinds of infections, with mycosis being the most frequent," says Dr. Egon Daxbacher, coordinator of the Rio de Janeiro Dermatology Society. "Government intervention is improving, but it is still in its first stages and not sufficient because culture among Brazilians regarding this issue is old-fashioned and there is a lot yet to do, particularly here, in Rio de Janeiro."

Interestingly, the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management has a section devoted to the topic of handling bird waste -- something that can wreak havoc on the health of people who come in contact with it. It notes that "Mycosis, a fungal infection resulting in disease, is usually incurred by inhaling dusts, especially organic (decaying vegetation) dusts and dusts enriched with bird or bat droppings, which contain massive amounts of the disease organisms."

The site also explains that fungal disease organisms in bird droppings typically thrive in soil that exists in optimal and humid temperatures which has been enriched by these droppings over the course of three years or longer.

Contaminated sand everywhere, even by water's edge

It's explained that while many people assume sand closer to the water would be cleaner, that just the opposite is true in this particular situation. Daxbacher says that while the dirtiest sand was initially discovered close to the street and beach entrances, that's changed through the years. Because beachgoers have become lax in their clean-up efforts and leave their trash behind, the dirtiest, most contaminated sand has now shifted closer to the water.

Rafael Martins is one person who, like many, thought cleaner sand would exist nearer the water. "I thought sand close to the water would be cleaner," Rafael Martins said. "But there is so much trash there."

However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that this problem isn't just affecting Brazil's beaches.

Beyond Brazil: U.S. beach sand shown to harbor fecal contamination

The agency points to studies in which fecal microbial pollution in beach sand in the U.S. has been linked gastrointestinal illness and diarrhea. Overall, the more people touched and dug in the sand, the more likely they were to come in contact with a range of fecal contamination such as fecal Bacteroides, Clostridium, Enterococcus and Bacteroidales.

Aside from the obvious of picking up one's trash at beaches in order to help fix this problem, the EPA as well as the World Health Organization (WHO) reinforce the importance of being mindful of animals brought on to beaches. For example, many beaches have rules that prohibit owners from bringing their dogs; WHO urges others to adhere to such restrictions while also engaging in an overall increased public awareness and participating in beach cleaning efforts. Similarly, the EPS suggests people still enjoy the beach, but makes it clear that people should be sure to wash their hands or use a hand sanitizer after playing in or touching sand and water.





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