Whether we like it or not, our nation's beaches are not as clean as we would prefer them to be. Ocean water contaminated with sewage, storm run-off and oil carries bacteria, parasites, and viruses, which can cause a variety of diseases. From Staph infections to earaches, hepatitis to skin rashes and respiratory issues, America's waters are an environmental hot bed for infection. For the last five years, there have been 18,000 beach closings across the United States. 2009 brought 18,682 days of closures and notices as a result of water contamination and pollution at beaches throughout the United States.
As summer ends, we here at HuffPost Green decided to explore the range of possible illnesses that can be contracted at our nation's beaches due to environmental contamination. While oiled beaches are making the most headlins this summer, there are numerous other contamination that can be found at the beach. Recreational water illnesses can be caught by swallowing contaminated water, inhaling infected mist, and swimming in polluted waters. Check out our slideshow of nine surprising infections that are found in the nation's oceans. As always, we want to hear from you. Tell us what you think in the comments.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Coral that survived the 2004 tsunami is now dying at one of the fastest rates ever recorded because of a dramatic rise in water temperatures off northwestern Indonesia, conservationists said, warning Wednesday that the threat extends to other reefs across Asia.
The Wildlife Conservation Society deployed marine biologists to Aceh province, on the tip of Sumatra island, in May when surface waters in the Andaman Sea peaked at 93 degrees Fahrenheit (34 degrees Celsius) – a 7 degree Fahrenheit (4 degree Celsius) rise over long-term averages.
HONG KONG — When Steven Leung and Sylvia Cheung celebrated their nuptials in this southern Chinese financial center recently, they lavished their guests with one sumptuous dish after another – bird nest soup, lobster, abalone.
But one traditional dish was missing from the 13-course Cantonese banquet. The newlyweds chose not to serve shark fin soup.
After Thai fisherman petitioned for help in solving their overfishing problem, the Thai Queen has responded by dumping 25 decommissioned army tanks, 273 old train cars, and 198 garbage trucks into the ocean to create artificial reefs, Al Jazeera reports.
The abandoned vehicles will create a total of 72 artificial reefs, which are hoped to increase local fish stocks by attracting new marine life populations to inhabit them.
NBC Philadelphia reports that tens of thousands of dead menhaden fish washed ashore Wednesday on a New Jersey beach along Delaware Bay.
The incident is strikingly similar to an occurrence from Monday, when thousands of dead menhaden also washed ashore over 200 miles away in Fairhaven, MA (see video HERE).
N.J. Department of Environmental Protection officials say initial tests show no signs of toxic phytoplankton, like red tide, in the water, and they are still examining oxygen levels. Fisheries in Massachusetts alleged low oxygen from warm waters was the cause of the mass kill in Fairhaven, according to CNN.
Strangest of all, seagulls aren't going near what would normally appear to be a free lunch for the area's birds.
On Monday, vacationing beach residents awoke to a foul smell when thousands of dead fish washed ashore on a small island on the east side of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, CNN reports.
Marine fisheries explained that the fish were killed due to a lack of oxygen caused by warm waters. All of the fish were Menhaden, which are especially sensitive to such changes, and they may have been dead for days prior to washing up on the beach.
Sylvia Earle has spent decades studying the vast life in our planet's oceans and advocating for its protection. She is Chair of the Deep Search Foundation and is an Explorer-In-Residence at the National Geographic Society, has set a record for solo diving, and has even blogged for HuffPost.
In this video from CNN, Earle recounts highlights from her history in oceanography. She talks about the 1969 program that was simultaneously working to put women under the sea while also putting men on the moon.
In 1979, she worked on a book for National Geographic, using a new diving suit that she likens to a "walking refrigerator," letting her individually explore the ocean floor. She tells CNN, "It was just an extravaganza of life, and I had a chance to just walk among these creatures for the first time, and bring back the news of what was there."
Earle stresses the importance of protecting our oceans, saying that we need to "try to inspire an awareness of what the problems are, and to inspire those who have the capacity to solve problems to do just that." She tells CNN that these next ten years may be the most important out of the next 10,000 "to secure for us an enduring future on this little blue planet that is already in serious trouble."
Since the smell test doesn't really cut it, we decided to investigate the chemicals in seafood that you might not know about. We all know that mercury is often found in fish and are careful about our mercury consumption but did you know about the presence of pesticides, flame retardants or arsenic in the world's seafood?
2.6 billion people obtain 20 percent of their animal protein from eating seafood. Contaminants leak into the world's water supplies from industrial and municipal waste, storm water runoff and even agricultural practices causing serious environmental, animal and human health issues. Check out our slideshow of seven toxic chemicals in fish that you don't know about. As always, we want to hear from you in the comments.
WASHINGTON — Despite their tiny size, plant plankton found in the world's oceans are crucial to much of life on Earth. They are the foundation of the bountiful marine food web, produce half the world's oxygen and suck up harmful carbon dioxide.