Maybe not Tetanus, specifically, from seawater, but plenty else…
Dealing with Marine and Saltwater Infections
I have been wanting to write a post about this topic, for some time now. I saw a fair number of these types of wounds, working in Greece, over the summer. My interest in these types of unique infections started in med school, treating oil rig workers from the Gulf of Mexico with some advanced infections. I even personally experienced one recently, from a fall on some rocks, in Greece. Seeing VagabondingLife.com and their Travel Injury Pictorial, reminded me how common these infections can be and hard they are to treat properly.
I was fortunate enough to hear Dr. Auerbach lecture on this topic, at the Expedition Medicine Conference and will attempt to do one of his favorite topics some justice.
First, this is a very large topic to discuss and I will attempt to focus on superficial skin infections associated with marine environments, for this post. Basically, a cut or scrape that is exposed to salt water and then gets infected. Discussion of things such as contact dermatitis, marine animal envenomations and bites require another discussion.
I think anybody who has spent anytime around salt water has gotten a scrape or cut, while in the water. For me, it has come from being bounced off a coral reef while surfing, slipping on rocks or having a cut from another activity and then swimming later in the trip. Anytime you break your skin and come into contact with marine water, you are at risk for specialized types of infections, not encountered on land or fresh water.
Potential sources of pollution
The materials used in most artificial reefs often cause pollution by releasing chemicals and nutrients that are not naturally found in reef environments. Ships can release polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), asbestos, iron, lead paint and anti-fouling paint leaches into the ocean and enters the food-chain.
Dumping old tires into the ocean was a practice used to create many artificial reefs. In Florida alone, 571 permitted artificial reefs exist and the number of illegal reefs is thought to be much greater. Tires are made from many chemicals and compounds such as black carbon, sulphur, zinc oxide and peroxides. The US National Artificial Reef Plan states that tires are a good reef construction material because no toxic substances are released from the decomposition of tires; though there is little information published to back up the claims and the future decomposing of the many different types of rubber tires could create unseen pollution.
The use of tires has fallen out of favor with marine biologists. Tropical storms may demolish the tire containment system, washing tires onto beaches, destroying nearby coral reefs and inhibiting new coral growth. As a result, states such as Florida and the country of France have begun large scale removal of tire reefs. On the Osborne Reef off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida boaters were allowed to dump unsecured tires at the site. Storms broke the nylon straps holding the original tire bundles together. Since 2007 approximately 130,000 of an estimated 700,000 tires have been removed. At other artificial reef sites hurricanes pushed tires up on beaches from Florida to North Carolina, damaging reefs, causing pollution and requiring costly cleanup. As a result, the Ocean Conservancy now includes tire removal during the International Coastal Cleanup in September of each year.
Rubber Tire Leachates in the Aquatic Environment
Article in Reviews of environmental contamination and toxicology 151:67-115 · February 1997
DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4612-1958-3_3 · Source: PubMed
Tires have a deleterious effect on the environment. This review discusses the background of scrap tires discarded in the environment, including tire composition, adverse environmental effects, threats to public health and safety, and solid waste management. Despite the widespread use of scrap tires in environmental applications, both land-based and aquatic, data on the indicators of environmental degradation are extremely scarce. Indicators of environmental degradation include analysis of chemicals within the water and sediment, analysis of contaminants within organisms, and analysis of the biological effects of these compounds on plants, animals, microbes, and organelles. Although these indicators are most useful when used in parallel, a review of the available information on chemical characterization of tire leachate from tire storage facilities, manufacturing, usage in recycling applications, and toxicity exposure studies, of vegetation surveys from waste tire areas and reviews of mammalian tire product toxicity, and of toxicity, mutagenicity, and carcinogenicity of tire exposure in experimental aquatic animals, microbes, and organelles is presented. The major characteristics of these studies are discussed in specific sections. The “Discussion and Conclusions” section discusses and summarizes the biological effects and chemical characterization of tire leachates. A global environmental perspective is included to improve our understanding of the deficiency of the current knowledge of tire leachate toxicity from various sources and to encourage interdisciplinary studies to establish the pattern of pollution associated with waste tire management.
Full text of “The Aquatic toxicity of scrap automobile tires”