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The ocean affects our physical and mental health – breaking latest news

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The ocean affects our physical and mental health – breaking latest news
Of Clare Bidoli

The seas, which cover 51% of our planet, have positive and negative effects (due to pollution) on human well-being and health

On World Ocean Day which this year is dedicated to tides that are changing due to climate change, the connections between sea and human health. The United Nations, last July, decided to consider the right to a healthy environment, one of the fundamental rights of human beings, to reaffirm the connection between how we are and the environment around us. This principle is accompanied by the concept of One Health which reiterates how important it is to protect the health of animals, the environment, human beings, and how much these things are connected to each other.
You cannot protect the environment without thinking of everything else – explains Francesca Santoro, Senior Program Officer for IOC-UNESCO and global head of Ocean Literacy for the United Nations Decade of Marine Sciences for Sustainable Development. Our great challenge is to make people understand the importance of connections, because political and institutional decision-makers often tend to have a sectoral approach which leads to making wrong decisions. In reality there is a need for a systemic, integrated approach and above all to understand that interdisciplinary skills are needed to manage the great environmental crisis we are experiencing.

The effects of the ocean on our health

Knowing that the ocean, which covers three quarters of our planet, is polluted and suffering, an attack on our health as well. When we talk about the effects of the ocean on our health, on the one hand we must consider the positive physical and mental impact we all benefit from, on the other the risks that an “unhealthy” ocean can bring to our health – explains Santoro. As for the benefits, they are many and have been grouped by English researchers under the umbrella of Blue Gym, as if the seas and beaches were a large gym at our disposal capable of impacting physical and mental health. And so. In fact, several studies have shown that living near the sea allows you to have lower stress levels than other populations, generates lower blood pressure, the heart rate slows down and then there are the positive impacts on mental health. From a physical point of view, some substances present in the sea, including iodine, affect our well-being, and then there are all the advantages on a respiratory level. In England there is a center of excellence, between the University of Exeter and the English National Health System, which deals specifically with the connections between the ocean and human health.

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The impact of pollution on humans

The sick ocean creates devastating effects on humans, just think that micro and nano plastics have been found in the placenta and human blood and there are also negative effects on the hormonal system. Pollution in the ocean is also an endocrine disruptor. Several studies have shown that plastics have effects on hormones, negatively affecting fertility, especially for men – Santoro points out. The problem is that these plastic particles are shrinking more and more, so much so that we are now talking mainly about nanoplastics which, among other things, manage to get into fish and molluscs that we eat regularly. The topic of microplastics now pervades all environmental matrices, from water to air, truly a rampant and all-encompassing phenomenon. Studies on the connection between human health and plastics are still in their infancy, but what we have discovered so far is undoubtedly alarming.

Pollution: present and future

Each of us called into question when it comes to pollution of the sea, mainly due to plasticbut something is happening.
The European Union has made a directive against single-use plastics, Italy has approved the law Big save. These are just some of the political initiatives that arise from the activism of individuals but which then also have effects on the rules – explains Santoro. Our eating habits are also imported. Consuming fish in a more conscious way, choosing seasonal and therefore local fish, protects the ecosystem and is good for the environment. For us Europeans it is recommended to eat local fish also for a safety issue. Our controls are tighter than in other areas of the planet where control conditions are less. The other interesting thing to say, with respect to the benefits, is that the ocean should be considered not only as a gym but also as a large pharmacy. More and more, in fact, pharmaceutical companies use substances produced at sea to create medicines and also treat important diseases.

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A look to the future

Can they change things? There are positive signs – continued Santoro. In March, a treaty was approved ondeep sea to protect those areas of the ocean outside national jurisdiction. It was a treaty under negotiation for decades but it was fundamental because the high seas (ie areas outside national jurisdiction) cover 51% of the surface of our planet. It means that in more than half of the surface of our planet, thanks to this treaty, it will be possible to create protected marine areas and the use of the biotic and abiotic resources of the ocean will be better regulated because it is expected that environmental impact assessments will be carried out, respect for example to the extraction of minerals or genetic extractions which are then those that are used in pharmaceuticals. There is greater awareness of the 2030 goals, but there is still a lot to do. In 2025 there will be the third edition of the United Nations Conference on the Ocean, which serves to monitor the implementation of goal 14 which concerns the sustainable development of the oceans, seas and marine resources. We hope to arrive at that event with lots of new achievements.

June 8, 2023 (change June 8, 2023 | 16:44)

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