Beach litter can be lethal.  Researchers at the Harry Butler Institute helped educate readers of The Conversation on its dangers with their recent article: Forget Sharks…here’s why you are more likely to be injured by litter at the beach.   The article, which translated work recently published by HBI’s own Drs. Marnie Campbell, Chad Hewitt, and Mariana Campos along with research officer Cameron McMains, was an overwhelming success in science communication.  As of February 2019, the article had been read over 30,000 times.

Readers in New Zealand, Australia, and abroad engaged with emerging research from the Institute showing the health impacts of the trash that ends up on our beaches.  The analysis described by the article was one of the first to investigate a comprehensive dataset of injuries to beachgoers.  Harry Butler Institute researchers found a not-surprising increase in the share of all injuries that were caused by litter in New Zealand: from 1.2% in 2007 to 2.9% in 2016.  Lacerations, sprains, and eye wounds were to blame for most of these.

Watch out for yourself at the beach and for upcoming research from the team here at the Harry Butler Institute.  The research this article was based on was recently published as well in the Science of the Total Environment.  It can be found on the publisher’s website.


Campbell, M. L., Peters, L., McMains, C., de Campos, M. C. R., Sargisson, R., Blackwell, B., & Hewitt, C. L. (2019). Are our beaches safe? Quantifying the human health impact of anthropogenic beach litter on people in New Zealand. Science of the Total Environment, 651.

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