In a narrow sense, the beach is inferred to be the natural landform created along the ocean, sea, or lake coast consisting of sand and pebbles. We must accept that one of the mesmerizing beauties gifted by nature strikes everyone’s sight.

‘After visiting the beach, it’s hard to believe that we live in a material world,’ revealed Pam Shaw, author of A day at the beach.

Everyone is not far from the hot issue of beach pollution. Since beach pollution worldwide has covered the dire issue, it has been a public concern.

Beach pollution results from anthropogenic-induced activities contaminating the coast by accommodating large waste piles such as litter, plastics, nitrogen, and phosphorus from excessive pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and animal waste.

The rapid overpopulation reflects more frequent visiting of the people to the beach. Once the natural beach is highly affected, it does not shine with its prime power, which has attracted millions of people through its natural beauty.

Table of Contents

Factors causing beach pollution

Factors - human health on beach
The dirty beach of India (source)

The discharges from ships, boats, fishing nets, algal bloom, agricultural runoff, industrial waste, plastics, sewage, and many more are factors affecting beach pollution levels. Such primary pollutants may cause legal blooms and are accumulated in the seafood.

Once humans consume seafood such as local fishes, crabs, and many more, ingestion of the toxins produced by the algal bloom could have detrimental impacts on human health, resulting in dementia, paralysis for a prolonged period, and even may result to death.

Concerning the toxic emission to the beach and the oceans, pollutants from industrial sources entail lead, oils, phosphates, mercury, and nitrates.

The land runoff on the beach is the fundamental cause of petroleum, chemical fertilizers, and animal wastes.

Besides these, the oil spills which do flow in the ocean too flow nearby the beach. Troublingly, the researchers insisted 12 % of the ocean pollution is contributed by the oil spills each year.

Effects on Human Health

Cyprus beach - human health on beach
Family enjoying the beach in Cyprus (source)

The significant health effect of beach pollution is to the species existing in the aquatic environment and the visitors who visit the beach frequently.

Most troublingly, the polluted beach water does harm the swimmers inducing several waterborne diseases, which entail respiratory infections, skin rashes, stomach flu, and many more.

The research conducted in 2009 stressed a positive correlation between the contact of the beach sand and the gastrointestinal infection risk in the beaches near the sewage treatment plant. We can estimate the exact effects on human health by beach pollution.

Ironically, the other research carried out in Northern California beaches depicted that in between the years 2000 and 2004, roughly 689,000 to 4,003,000 gastrointestinal illnesses were recorded per year.

Along with this, approximately 693,000 cases were identified as respiratory diseases induced by beach pollution.

The study insists the risk of gastrointestinal disorders seems very massive and elevated after the rainfall and the storm; instead, the dry conditions at the beach.

Beach’s swimmers and visitors are likely to be affected by the pollution and the severe effects of climate change.

Several pieces of research support the findings that low salinity, increment in the freshwater runoff, and the nutrients help V Cholerae.

This bacterium grows massively once the climate change crisis creates alteration in the water flow rates and the temperature.

It’s heart-wrenching that the microplastic used in making the plastic consists of carcinogens, neurotoxins, and chemicals interfering with the hormones that could cause cancer and congenital disabilities.

It may result in fertility reduction as well. Microplastics enter the primary consumers through the food chain, such as fishes and shellfish.

Upon consumption of those fishes by humans, many chemicals are ingested in the human body. It could, without a doubt, cause extreme impacts on our bodies.

The plastics thrown away on the beach comprise PCB (Polychlorinated Biphenyl), dioxins, and perfluorinated substances.

It can ultimately result in numerous health impacts, including neurobehavioral disorders, cancer, endocrine disruption, and immune dysfunction.

It seems that the plastics that remain on the beach could dangerously hamper human health. It is even expected that all the humans have almost microplastic remained in their bodies today. 

The fishes accumulated by the mercury in their body once consumed by the pregnant women have detrimental effects in their womb’s infants since it causes an increase in the risks of autism, learning disorders, and changing behaviors of the children.

Additionally, the mercury contamination could damage the developing brains and may even lower the intelligence skills of the infants.

It has critically affected the indigenous communities and the coastal people who do dependent their life nearby the coastal areas, thereby posing severe threats to their survival.

The fundamental cause of beach pollution is litter, including foam, newspaper, plastic, aluminum, and many more.

These litters can be frequently visualized once the visitor gets into the beach of the ocean or the seas. It feels very ironic to reveal that the contamination as a cause of the beach pollution ends up on our plate.

Everyone agrees that humans could have Parkinson’s disease and heart diseases through ingestion. For instance, polluting our beaches with various chemicals causes contamination principally to the fishes who survive in the marine water.

When the fishes inhale the contaminated water, the pollutants inside the fish’s body get magnified and accumulate in their body.

And finally, upon the consumption of the fish by humans, humans too become the victim of various diseases. From the food chain to the food web, the contamination still gets accumulated and gets persistent in the natural environment for a prolonged period.

It’s a natural process to reveal that the humans have caused the beach pollution, and in turn, the beach has caused impacts of the beach pollution on humans.

It seems like turn by turn strategy. Once humans favor nature and its resources, it undoubtedly pays us back with a good deed.

The climate change crisis has catastrophic devastation in almost all sectors, including the beach. Due to the climate change-induced effects, there is a high risk of eroding the coastal beaches.

With the rise in sea level, the beach may not sustain for longer. It halts the moving inland with high levels of water, which could not protect the communities near the coastal areas. Such alterations do hamper public health severely.

The study stressed that coastal pollution had been sere principally in the low and middle-income countries; instead of the developed ones.

To boot, the Arctic indigenous and marginalized communities have recently been the massive victims of beach pollution.

Resulted of beach pollution, when the fish stocks collapse, the coastal fishing communities that rely on fishing could severely get affected in sustaining their livelihoods.

The globe is running through the 21st century. Everything has altered, heading the nations to the scientific era. Although some have higher education, they never learned to think about halting beach pollution.

Once the beach gets eroded, it’s deteriorated. The direct impact it posed is humankind at first. Therefore, it seems of utmost necessity to think twice about our gifted natural resource before we make it like a graveyard.

Plastics in Beach and Ocean. Copyright: Oceana

The beaches have been shrinking day by day due to anthropogenic-induced activities. The construction activities, physical infrastructures have massively created influences on the beaches.

It seems very ironic to insist that due to the extensive human interference in the beaches, some beaches are restricted to visiting the dunes by humans.

These all consequences are the primary cause of the human. Once our beach gets eroded for a prolonged period, we want to seek it to the original.

With the United Nations announcement of ‘Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development from 2021 to 2030’, the time has arrived to think about the extreme effects of beach pollution in human health and track the solutions required to eradicate the issues of beach pollution to some extent.

The Ocean Research Project Initiative has identified several three fields inferred to Seas, Oceans, and Public Health in Europe (SOPHIE) project entailing sustainable seafood for the healthy people, biodiversity, biotechnology and the medicine, blue spaces, tourism, and well being.

In the name of human recreation, the remaining human wastes and the debris have made the beach very filthy and unfit from a health point of view.

Since public health is a hot topic concerning health, it has been affected by the visitors who don’t possess any sense to clean their beaches for a prolonged period.

Indeed but pitiful that the research estimates roughly 10-400 years are required to decompose the plastic entirely depending on the size and the materials the plastic contains.

The decomposition of the glass in the sand requires 1 million years, which we could not imagine. There is frequent visualization of the broken glasses on the beach’s sandy shores, and the cans possess a higher risk of cutting somebody.

The crucial impacts caused by beach pollution on humans are diseases. Once the water quality near the beaches gets ruined and deteriorated, may emerge several skin infections the human.

It possesses a significant contribution. Indeed, the beaches substantially contribute to our day-to-day life, mostly the coastal fishing communities.

It is a residence source for those near the beach since it acts as a buffering zone, preventing the high winds and powerful waves.


As a public concern, beach pollution adversely impacts the environment, including humans. Sometimes the beach gets polluted by natural phenomena, but almost all the breakdowns are anthropogenically centered.

Today, the beach pollution we visualize throughout the globe is the critical cause of humans and only humans. The beach pollution has confined human health from contamination to severe diseases.

The primary contributor of beach pollution entails mercury, chemical fertilizers, discharge from the industrial effluents and the wastewater treatment plants without pre-treatment nearby the coastal areas, and agricultural runoff.

Once the beach gets polluted with litter, the principal victims will inevitably be living creatures, aquatic flora, fauna, or humans.

Its bitter truth that researchers yell hazardous data regarding the beach pollutants and the devastation it could lead in the near coming days. Human suffers highly once the polluted beach ruins human health for a long. 

A wide array of activities looks pretty wise to assure the healthy environment of our natural pride, the beach, and its consequences.

Reducing the plastic waste by the visitors, controlling the chemical and industrial pollution, implementing strict laws and regulations, massive participation in the beach cleanup timely are inferred as the best strategic measures.

To conclude, monitoring the beach condition from time to time and avoiding microbead products could be imperative effective measures to control beach pollution at a larger scale. It assures the long-term preservation of our beaches not only for us; instead for our future generations too.

(Last Updated on December 27, 2021 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Kalpana Ghimire holds a post-graduate degree in Environmental Science from Nepal. She possesses numerous research experiences working in water pollution, community forestry, environment conservation status, and wildlife ecology. She was an internee in the Department of Environment (EIA monitoring and auditing section) under the Government of Nepal. Kalpana Ghimire is an avid traveler, an enthusiastic wildlife researcher, and has a huge passion for working in the environment sector. She loves far traveling to the natural areas, conducting field wildlife research and reading the novels.