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Are our beaches safe? Quantifying the human health impact of anthropogenic beach litter on people in New Zealand

Campbell, M.L., Peters, L., McMains, C., de Campos, M.C.R., Sargisson, R., Blackwell, B. and Hewitt, C.L. (2018) Are our beaches safe? Quantifying the human health impact of anthropogenic beach litter on people in New Zealand. Science of The Total Environment, 651 (Part 2). pp. 2400-2409.

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The environmental, social and cultural importance of beaches permeates human society, yet the risk of human injury associated with increasing exposure to anthropogenic beach litter remains an unknown. While the impact of marine debris and beach litter on marine and coastal fauna and flora is a widely reported global issue, we investigate the impact on human health in New Zealand. Anthropogenic beach litter is ubiquitous, few beaches remain pristine, which consequently influences tourist choices and potentially negatively interacts with humans. Human impacts are not well-investigated, with no quantitative studies of impact but many studies qualitatively inferring impact. New Zealand has a socialised medical system allowing a quantitative, decadal assessment of medical insurance claims to determine patterns and trends across ecosystems and causes. We demonstrate for the first time that anthropogenic beach litter poses a common and pervasive exposure hazard to all ages, with specific risk posed to young children. The New Zealand system allows these hazards to be investigated to determine the true effects and costs across a nation, providing an evidence base for decision-makers to address this ubiquitous environmental issue.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Harry Butler Institute
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Copyright: © 2018 Elsevier B.V.
United Nations SDGs: Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being
Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
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