Cotton swabs and beach wet wipes, a storehouse of bacteria that is dangerous to our health

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A study by the University of Stirling showed that plastic waste carried by sewage to beaches contains fecal bacteria and vibes that are potentially harmful to human health. They bond more to pieces of plastic than to natural substrates

Plastic waste of various origins, such as cotton buds, wet wipes and shopping bags, polluted beaches and coasts around the world, is carried by wastewater or released directly into rivers and seas. However, until now, science did not analyze in detail their danger to human health. A worrying and unexpected panorama has now been described by the research group of Professor Richard Quilliam from the University of Stirling, Scotland, who conducted a study on plastic waste collected in ten beaches along the Forth River estuary in Scotland. Among the sites analyzed are also the beaches of Abderador Silver Sands and Portobello, which are very popular among tourists and tourists.

Researchers analyzed waste collected on beaches, attached to the wastewater, comparing their bacterial load with that of natural substrates, such as algae and grains of sand, to better understand their danger and resistance to antibiotics. Substrates were analyzed through media selective for fecal bacterial indicator organisms (eg Escherichia coli and intestinal enterococci) and to potential human pathogens, for example some species of Vibrio (Vibrio spp.). The results leave no room for doubt: Waste can act as a reservoir for bacteria and other potential human pathogens, as well as a reservoir for antimicrobial resistance genes.

Wipes exhibited the highest level of colonization, with E. coli and enterococci present in 100% of the samples analyzed. Colonization of algae by Vibrio spp. It was less consistently than wet wipes and cotton buds.

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According to the study authors, Published on Marine Pollution BulletinThe results are impressive: like bacteriaEscherichia coli They bind to plastics more often than natural substances such as algae, which prove to be a health hazard to unsuspecting swimmers., Now that the demand for wipes and others has increased following the COVID-19 pandemic (Hu et al., 2022), it is even more necessary to invest in public awareness programs to reduce the use of wet wipes entering sewer networks has gone.

The research is part of the Plastics Vector Project funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), which studies how plastics can facilitate the transport of bacteria and viruses in the environment and aims to measure the long-term impact on human health.

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