Swimming in the ocean off the coast of first-world countries found to increase risk of illness
03/25/2018 // Jessica Dolores // Views

You've finally saved enough to enjoy that long-planned vacation by the deep blue sea. You dream of long days and nights feeling the soft sand on your bare feet, the gentle wind blowing on your face. Your snorkeling gear is ready. So, too, are your swimming paraphernalia, including those goggles that make you admire the colorful corals under the sea. But before you head off to your destination, it pays to know the health risks you're exposing yourself to.

The University of Exeter Medical School and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology collaborated on a massive study that examined the link between sea bathing and various ailments. The study, the first of its kind, has not-so-good news for sea lovers in the U.S. and other first-world countries. Researchers found that sea bathing doubled the risk of acquiring ear ailments. The incidence of earache, specifically, rose by a whopping 77 percent. Gastrointestinal illness rose by 29 percent.

Dr. Anne Leonard of the University of Exeter Medical School negated the perceived health benefits of spending time by the sea by citing the paper's findings.

"Our paper shows that spending time in the sea does increase the probability of developing illnesses, such as ear ailments and problems involving the digestive system, such as stomach ache and diarrhea. We think that this indicates that pollution is still an issue affecting swimmers in some of the world's richest countries," she said.

Rich countries pay the price of progress by releasing industrial waste, sewage, and run-off from farmland into the sea. And efforts to improve water quality in recent years seem futile so far. Researchers narrowed down over 6,000 studies to 19 and tapped over 120,000 people to get results. All of the studies, which began as far back as 1961, were done in wealthy nations like the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, and Norway.


Dr. Will Gaze, who supervised the study said he and his colleagues have nothing against people going to the sea to unwind. After all, he goes on, the sea offers a host of health benefits, among them reconnecting with Mother Nature. Gaze added that most people will recover from the illness without having to see the doctor. He's more concerned with the ill effects of going to the sea among the very young, the very old and those with pre-existing health conditions.

He concedes that evidence points to the need to clean up coastal waters some more.

What you can do

We can do our share, no matter how small, in cleaning up the sea.

Here's how:

  • Stay away from plastic! They destroy marine life and pollute the water. Shift to those earth-friendly bags and containers instead.
  • Throw your trash away. Don't leave them by the sea.
  • Throw away trash along the way. It wouldn't hurt if you include those empty water bottles others left behind in your own trash.
  • Bring your own recyclable water and food containers and utensil.
  • Go ahead, make a bonfire. But don't burn your debris there. It will find its way to the sea and the sand. Put out the bonfire properly as well.
  • Pick up after your pet. Yes, they love the sea as as much as you do. But they also leave dirt behind. It's your responsibility as pet owner to make sure they don't dirty the sea and sand.
  • Don't throw those cigarette butts away in the sea and/or sand. Its nicotine content is deadly to fellow sea lovers and marine life.
  • Explore sea destinations in developing countries, where the water is less populated, and the sand more pristine.
  • Spread the word. Remind everyone to keep the sea clean and safe for everyone. It's also for their own good.

Sources include:



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