Is the Ocean Safe?

One of my science teachers in high school claimed that he had not been in the ocean in about ten years because of the threats that it imposes on human health. Ever since he told us this, I had been unsure whether it was true that the ocean was dangerous and he was being logical, or it was some kind of myth that he heard and ran with. I decided that these blog posts gave me the perfect opportunity to finally look further into this question.

The null hypothesis is that there is no negative effects to a human’s health from going into the ocean. The alternative hypothesis is that there is in fact negative effects to a human’s health from going into the ocean.

I found a study that was conducted from a beach in England over a period of three weeks in 1990. A few things were taken into consideration concerning the subjects of the study. They were asked about the length of their stay, ranging from a day trip to residency in the beach town. They were also asked whether their purpose of being in the water was for bathing, wading, surfing, or diving. These specific questions were asked so that they could rule out cofounding variables to the best of their ability. They answered questions a week after leaving the town regarding different symptoms they may have been feeling.

The results:


The subject’s reports showed us that those who bathed in the ocean water were more likely to experience a gastrointestinal illness than non-bathers. Also, they were more likely to show symptoms of issues in the eyes, ears, nose, throat and respiratory system, but not by a very large amount. The real difference is found within the extent to which the person went in the ocean. The risks get increasingly higher as the scale goes from a wader (less risky) to a swimmer to a surfer/diver (more risky).

Mechanism: There was no mechanisms stated in the study above, so I decided to research the topic a little bit further. An article published by the EPA explains that people and animals cause pollution and sewage to make way into the ocean, which makes the people who go into the ocean come in contact with pathogens.

As I was looking on the internet for information on this topic I came across an article that reminded me of the concept we went over in class called the power of the anecdote. This article was about a little girl who went in the ocean and soon after had a severe eye infection. As I was reading this story, I was beginning to think that it actually might not be worth it to go in the ocean. The power of the anecdote was taking effect on me. Although one intense like this should never be able to have a large effect on one’s opinion, the way in which these news stories are presented catches the attention of the general public.

My intuition: After reviewing this study I do not think it would be logical to form a opinion on the health risks of going in the ocean. First of all, it is one study and we have learned many times in class that you cannot base anything off a singular study, especially when it is only pulling data from one place. However, my initial reaction from this one study is that there could possibly be health risks from going in the ocean and these risks increase with one’s exposure.

3 thoughts on “Is the Ocean Safe?

  1. Alexandra Kaminsky

    I live right near the beach on the Jersey Shore. I go to the beach almost every day in the summer and I love to go in the ocean. It is interesting to hear about negative health affects the ocean has on the human body. It definitely makes me weigh the risks and hazards of going in the ocean. Check out this article I found on plastic toxicity in the ocean and the affects it has on the human body.

  2. Gulianna E Garry

    Living on the Jersey Shore, I am basically on the beach every other day. I had no clue there could be possible negative health effects by being in the ocean. I know recently, however, there has been an increase of shark spottings by where I live. It is very scary to think what else is in the ocean with you when you are just trying to have a fun, relaxing day at the beach. Here is an article explaining why there could start being increasing in shark attacks in the near future.

  3. Katherine Yuen

    Hi Darby! I really enjoyed your post because, as a lover of the ocean, I never knew that there had ever been any research about possible negative health effect from being in the ocean! All of the concerns I’ve ever had about going in the ocean were more about riptides, sharks, and even sunburns. I found this webpage which lists some more common and severe dangers you may face at the beach and in the ocean, other than internal health problems. I guess, just like Andrew says, everything has risk and we have to consider how worth it it is!

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