RIO DE JANEIRO – The sands on the beaches of this Brazilian tourist mecca are heavily polluted, mainly thanks to trash left behind by beachgoers, experts told Efe.
Rio de Janeiro’s world-famous Copacabana and Ipanema are among the areas contaminated to the point that dermatologists recommend avoiding skin contact with the sands.
The Municipal Environment Agency reported in February that 13 beaches were contaminated due to the food and other refuse left by visitors, which attracts birds and other animals.
“Trash and dog and bird droppings become a breeding ground for microorganisms – fungi as well as bacteria and viruses – and humans can get all kinds of infections, with mycosis being the most frequent,” Dr. Egon Daxbacher, coordinator of the Rio de Janeiro Dermatology Society, told Efe.
The problem has been growing in the five years since the Society started conducting analyses, he said.
“When we began our studies sands were dirtier around the beach entrances, closer to the street,” Daxbacher said. “Now, as a result of crowds and the amount of waste disseminated, the dirtiest sand is found closer to the water.”
The Dermatology Society cooperates with Rio’s municipal government to design environmental protection policies and outreach campaigns to encourage beachgoers to pick up their trash.
“Government intervention is improving, but it is still in its first stages and not sufficient because culture among Brazilians regarding this issue is old-fashioned and there is a lot yet to do, particularly here, in Rio de Janeiro,” Daxbacher said.
Tourists interviewed by Efe on Copacabana were unaware of the problem.
Alejandra Claramunt, from Argentina, was outraged “at the amount of waste and trash you can see all over the beach,” while another another Argentine visitor was surprised to hear about the contamination.
Even Brazilians seemed to be unaware.
“I thought sand close to the water would be cleaner,” Rafael Martins told Efe. “But there is so much trash there.”
“If it is true that sand is so contaminated, authorities should take steps to solve the problem so we can go on enjoying life here in Copacabana,” Daro Luis da Conceição said.