Saturday, September 30, 2023
Nature

Bacteria and Chemical Compounds From Coastal Water Pollution Can Reach People via Sea Spray Aerosol Along Beaches, Potentially Causing Complications

According to new research led by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, coastal water contamination transfers to the atmosphere in the form of sea spray aerosol, which could also reach out to people other than beachgoers, surfers, and swimmers.

Coastal water pollution transfers to the air in a sea spray aerosol

(Photo : ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images)


Rainfall along the US-Mexico border complicates wastewater treatment, resulting in untreated sewage flowing into the Tijuana River and into the ocean in south Imperial Beach, as per ScienceDaily.

For decades, this contaminated water input has resulted in chronic coastal water pollution in Imperial Beach.

According to new research, sewage-polluted coastal waters are transferred to the atmosphere in the form of sea spray aerosol, which is formed by breaking waves and bursting bubbles.

Aerosolized seawater contains bacteria, viruses, and chemical compounds.

The findings were published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology on March 2.

According to lead researcher Kim Prather, a Distinguished Chair in Atmospheric Chemistry and Distinguished Professor at Scripps Oceanography and UC San Diego’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, the study comes during a winter, in which an estimated 13 billion gallons of sewage-polluted waters had also entered the ocean through the Tijuana River.

She is also the founding director of the National Science Foundation Center for Aerosol Impacts on Environmental Chemistry (CAICE).

Prather and colleagues emphasize that their findings do not imply that sewage in sea spray aerosol is causing people to become ill.

The bacteria found in sea spray airborne particles don’t really indicate that pathogenic or non-pathogenic microbes are released into the atmosphere.

More research into infectivity, exposure levels, and other risk factors is needed, according to the authors.

According to the findings of this study, coastal cities are exposed to coastal water pollution sometimes when they do not enter polluted waters, said lead author Matthew Pendergraft, a recent Scripps Oceanography graduate.

More research is needed to determine the level of risk that aerosolized coastal water pollution poses to the public.

These findings provide additional justification for prioritizing coastal water cleanup.

Congressman Scott Peters (CA-50) secured additional funding in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 Omnibus spending bill to further investigate the conditions that lead to the aerosolization of pollutants and pathogens, how far they travel, and potential public health ramifications.

Also read: How Ocean Pollution Damages Human Health

Coastal pollution and impacts

Humans have had and continue to have a significant impact on coastal and estuarine ecosystems around the world through pollution and habitat loss, as per CoastalWiki.

Over 80% of all marine pollution originates on land, primarily from industrial, agricultural, and urban sources.

Most human activities, including offshore oil and gas production and marine oil transportation, are polluted.

Pollution, in addition to affecting the marine environment, causes economic losses.

The relative contribution of each human activity to the overall pollution impact is determined by the specific situation and the substances released.

The lack of reliable data and the extreme complexity of biogeochemical cycles, particularly at the sea-land and sea-atmosphere interfaces, make quantitative estimates difficult.

Pollution from both point and non-point sources continues to degrade coastal and marine ecosystems around the world.

Indirect (or diffuse) inputs are typically widespread low-level discharges that cause chronic pollution.

This section considers general pollution sources and effects (eutrophication, contamination and pollution from industry and agriculture, and so on).

The coastal zone’s sensitivity to watershed impacts is investigated in relation to land-derived pollution and water quality.

Because the majority of contaminants enter the sea via flows from the surrounding land, particularly rivers, the highest concentrations are frequently found in estuaries and coastal areas, and thus the greatest effects of contaminants on the ecosystem are likely to occur here.

This general picture can be influenced by additional inputs at sea – ships, offshore platforms – as well as inputs through the atmosphere.

Contaminants are typically diluted and widely dispersed once they enter the sea.

Adsorption of contaminants to suspended solid material in the sea, on the other hand, results in elevated concentrations on the seabed in areas where this material settles.

Estuaries and lagoons, for example, are particularly vulnerable because they are close to direct sources of input.

Toxic substances that persist in the marine environment have an impact on water quality.

These substances vary in origin and composition, but they are all classified as stable or persistent and share important properties.

Related article: Former Farm Vet Kayaks Off The Coast of Cornwall and Captured ‘Thrilling’ Footage of 30ft Whale


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