Scientists in Cornwall 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. 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.
Over recent years concern about the cleanliness of coastal water – and its possible adverse effects on health – has led to tighter regulation 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.
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, based in Truro, is leading the project and told Roseland Online “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.”
The project’s senior researcher, Dr William Gaze, added, “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.”
The survey will be going live from 2nd June 2014 for two weeks, and will be available again later in the year. Various charitable organisations, such as the Marine Conservation Society, Wildlife Trusts and Surfers Against Sewage, will be sharing links to the survey via social media when it launches, it is also available here www.ecehh.org/news/public-report-health