Marine Pollution: Scientists urge public to take part in second wave of health survey

Scientists in Cornwall are making a second appeal for people to take part in research that will shed light on the health effects of marine pollution.

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. They are eager to hear from both water users and non-waters users, including those who took part in the first stage of the study in June. Anyone aged over 18 in England or Wales can participate – either online or using a smartphone.

PhD student, Anne Leonard, is leading the project and said:

“We want to understand the risk of illness people face when they visit the beach and after a really successful first phase of the project, we now need as many people as possible to take part again – including those who have not been in the sea recently. A large number of people taking part in the study will allow us to be much more confident in our findings.”

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.

However, Surfers Against Sewage has warned the public about more than 3,000 short term pollution incidents on English beaches – episodes that current water quality tests are unlikely to capture.

The project’s senior researcher, Dr William Gaze, said:

“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 went live on 19 August and will be available for two weeks, and those who participated the first time around are encouraged to respond again.

Further information and a link to the survey are available here.


For further information please visit or contact Alex Smalley on [email protected] or 01872 258131.

The University of Exeter Medical School’s European Centre for Environment and Human Health is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund Programme 2007 to 2013 and European Social Fund Convergence Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

The Department for Communities and Local Government is the managing authority for the European Regional Development Fund Programme, which is one of the funds established by the European Commission to help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support local businesses and create jobs. For more information visit

European Social Fund Division, part of the Department of Work and Pensions, is the managing authority for the European Social Fund (ESF) Convergence, which is one of the funds established by the European Commission to help local areas stimulate their economic development. ESF Convergence invests in the economic regeneration of Cornwall & Isles of Scilly, investing in people, their jobs and skills. For more information visit and

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