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Environmental Health Report: A review of the human health risks from microbial hazards in recreational beach sand


Bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi that can cause infection or illness in humans may be naturally found in beach sands or introduced with people or water entering the beach environment. In 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) published updated guidelines for assessing and monitoring recreational coastal water quality, which recommended that risk factors for pathogens of concern in beach sand be incorporated into a recreational water safety plan. Coastal and marine water quality is monitored in Aotearoa New Zealand using faecal indicator bacteria (FIB) but it cannot be assumed that the presence of these FIB in water reflects the microbial risks from nearby beach sand. This report is a first step towards identifying which microbial hazards could pose a public health risk to New Zealand recreational beach use.