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World’s beaches turned killing fields

Posted by feww on August 25, 2009

Death on the Beach

Human activity transforming world’s beaches, coastal waters into killing fields

Saint-Michel-en-Greve, Brittany, France

Thousands of tons of noxious algae are piling up on northern beaches of France emitting deadly hydrogen sulfide. The latest reported victim was a horse which collapsed and died after inhaling the deadly gas.

The concentration of hydrogen sulfide recorded in the bay at Saint-Michel-en-Greve, produced by rotting algae, has reached 1,000 parts per million (PPM), twice the 500PPM level that is potentially fatal if inhaled, according to a report commissioned by France’s Ecology Minister.

Green algae covers the beach at Saint-Michel-en-Greve, western France, August 20, 2009. Hydrogen sulphide (H2S) produced by mounds of decomposing green algae is now a major concern across the Brittany region. (Image: ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images). Image may be subject to copyright.

The horse’s rider reportedly lost consciousness and could have died, had he not been be dragged out of  a deep pool of decomposing sludge.

Excess nitrogen [and phosphorus] farm runoff and sewage flow washed off into the world’s coastal waters [and all other water bodies,] fuel algal blooms.

“Environmentalists are demanding action to promote organic farming in the region, where 60 percent of French pigs are reared.” Reuters reported.

Green tides are usually caused by a proliferation of chlorophytas (usually ulvas, occasionally enteromorphas). These blooms develope  every spring and summer on several European coasts: in Limfjord and the fjord of Roskilde in Denmark; the Veerse Meer, the Netherlands; the lagoon of Venice. In France green tides appear in the lagoons situated on the coast of the Languedoc region (gulf of Lyon), in the Atlantic bay of Arcachon (in this case the proliferation is due to Monostroma obscurum), and on some  50 of Breton beaches. The latter eutrophication process is caused by the species called Ulva armoricana and Ulva rotundata [the edible seaweeds.]

A green tide in Brittany, beach of Saint-Michel en Grève/Saint Efflam ((photograph by J.Y. Piriou, Ifremer). Image may be subject to copyright.

Northern Beaches of the North Island, New Zealand

“Mysterious” death has claimed hundreds of animals on New Zealand Beaches, including  dolphins, penguins, pilchards and local dogs

Extensive farm runoff and sewage contamination in New Zealand coastal waters, which spurs growth of potentially deadly algal blooms [cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, or Cyanophyta,] toxic algae poisoning may prove to be the main cause of the animal deaths.

Deadly fish have been found washed up on the Petone foreshore, prompting a warning to the public to steer clear of them.  Photo: PHIL REID/The Dominion Post. Image may be subject to copyright. [Source: New Zeelend Blog.]

“Touching a dead animal on the beach could be enough to endanger human life, said Cawthron Institute algae specialist Paul McNabb.” NZHerald earlier reported.

“People can die from this,” Mr McNabb said.

“If you put a slug in your mouth, you’d be vomiting and your entire body would be tingling.

“Within minutes you’d be paralysed. Your heart and lungs would shut down and you’d be dead within the hour.

“Or if you touched it and it was all over your hands and you went and ate a sandwich …” [Source: NZ Beach poison will kill you in an hour]

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6 Responses to “World’s beaches turned killing fields”

  1. […] World’s beaches turned killing fields […]

  2. […] World’s beaches turned killing fields […]

  3. feww said

    MRSA ’superbug’ found in ocean, public beaches

    SAN FRANCISCO — Public beaches may be one source of the surging prevalence of the superbug known as multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, researchers here said Saturday.

    A study by researchers at the University of Washington has for the first time identified methicillin-resistant Staph aureus (MRSA) in marine water and beach sand from seven public beaches on the Puget Sound.

    The researchers identified Staph bacteria on nine of 10 public beaches that they tested. Seven of 13 Staph aureus samples, found on five beaches, were multidrug resistant, says lead investigator Marilyn Roberts.

    “Our results suggest that public beaches may be a reservoir for possible transmission of MRSA,” she told the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy here, the leading international conference on new and resurgent diseases.

    Antibiotic-resistant bacteria have been around for almost as long as there have been antibiotics. Until recently, researchers have been able to outwit them by developing new antibiotics. Now, however, the pipeline of new antibiotics has slowed, and germs are coming perilously close to winning the race.

    The best available treatment for MRSA, vancomycin, is more expensive than other antibiotics and takes a long time to conquer the infection. “It’s like trying to turn an ocean liner around,” says Henry Chambers of the University of California, San Francisco.

    Until a decade ago, most multidrug-resistant Staph aureus infections were found in hospitals among severely ill patients. That changed about seven years ago with the emergence of a strain hardy enough, and virulent enough to infect healthy people, usually in their skin and soft tissues.

    Since about 30% of healthy people carry Staph aureus, most people are able to survive infection. But it is fatal in about 20% of people who develop MRSA bloodstream infections and 40% of those who develop MRSA pneumonia. It has emerged as a killer of people with severe influenza, including the new H1N1, or swine, flu.

    Curiously, Roberts says, five of the samples found on the beach and in the sand more closely resembled hospital-acquired MRSA than the bacteria found in the community. Three of the samples, from three beaches 10 miles apart, were virtually identical, she says. “One would think they came from the same source,” Roberts added.

    The most likely scenario, she says, is that the source is environmental, not human, but “where all of these organisms are coming from and how they’re getting seeded (on the beaches) is not clear.” Tests of ocean water and sand taken from two beaches in Southern California turned up no Staph aureus at all.

    Genetic analysis also suggested that the Puget Sound beaches, and maybe others, may represent an “ecosystem,” where bacteria thrive, mingle and swap genes, particularly those confer antibiotic resistance.

    Roberts says there may be much more MRSA than her team’s “grab and go” sampling experiments indicated. “The fact that we found these organisms suggests that the amount is much higher than we previously thought,” she says.

    Lance Peterson, a University of Chicago infectious disease specialist who was not involved in the study, says, “Staph is a salt-loving organism. It’s not surprising to see it in the ocean.”
    Copyright 2009 USA TODAY

  4. te2ataria said

    Three more dogs sick after beach visits

    10/09/2009 16:40:02

    Another three Auckland dogs have fallen ill after being walked on North Shore beaches.

    Two of the dogs fell ill after visits to Takapuna Beach yesterday, while another dog is sick after being walked on Cheltenham Beach.

    The Auckland Regional Council announced two weeks ago that the beaches were safe, but warned dog walkers to be cautious.

    Ian Power owns two of the sick dogs and says it was obvious they were not well early on.

    “About three o’clock yesterday afternoon Sam started to just salivate around the mouth a bit. And then by about five o’clock he was really starting to to get shaky on his feet – and then his legs would collapse and fall down.”

    Mr Power says if people could see the state his dogs were in, they would realise it would be unwise to walk their dogs on the beaches.

  5. terres said

    Seaweed suspected in French death
    French investigators are examining whether a lorry driver has become the first victim of a toxic seaweed that is clogging parts of the Brittany coast.

    The driver died in July after carrying three truckloads of sea lettuce away from the beaches where it has been decaying, releasing poisonous gas.

    His death was originally recorded as a heart attack but prosecutors want to know if it was linked to the seaweed.

    France’s PM warned of the health risk while visiting the beaches last month.

    Francois Fillon announced that the government would pay for cleaning up the beaches polluted by the sea lettuce, ulva lactuca.

    Locals had raised the alarm after a horse, being ridden over the sands, collapsed and died. Its rider fell unconscious and had to be dragged off the algae-coated beach.

    By then, the lorry driver had already died.

    The 48-year-old driver had been working without a mask or gloves and died at the wheel of his vehicle when it crashed into a wall, reports Tim Finan in Brittany for the BBC.

    The man had been part of the annual operation to remove 2,000 tonnes of rotting sea lettuce from the beaches at Binic.

    His family have so far refused to allow an autopsy to establish the exact cause of his death, but on Monday the local prosecutor ordered a preliminary investigation.

    Farming blamed

    Christian Urvoy, the mayor of Binic, said: “‘We want to know if in future we should take precautions to safeguard workers who collect or transport seaweed.”

    A spokesman for the local authorities has strongly denied they were aware of the death when Mr Fillon visited St-Michel-en-Greve in August.

    Researchers from France’s National Institute for Environmental Technology and Hazards (Ineris) have visited the same beach and found hydrogen sulphide in such concentration that it could be “deadly in few minutes”.

    Sea lettuce is harmless in the sea, but as it decomposes on the beach it releases the deadly gas.

    Environmentalists say decades of misuse of Brittany’s agricultural land is to blame for the explosion of algae, due to the high levels of nitrates used in fertilisers and excreted by the region’s high concentration of livestock.

    They have called for tighter controls on farming. – BBC © MMIX

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