A national beach cleanup has removed about 1.5 million pounds of garbage so far from shorelines, but the cleanup's coordinator says the all-volunteer effort found that the country's coasts "aren't awash with medical waste."
Instead, Kathy O'Hara, a marine biologist with the Center for Environmental Education, said Monday that volunteers mostly picked up hundreds of tons of plastic, garbage from foreign countries and traceable debris from cruise ships.Data from more than 1,800 miles of beaches in 16 states and Puerto Rico has been collected, she said. Information from eight other states and from Costa Rica remains to be compiled.
"We found medical wastes in most states, but we are not going to see an overwhelming amount of it," O'Hara said, adding that such wastes amount to a "minuscule" percentage of beach debris.
This summer, hundreds of thousands of people stayed away from East Coast beaches after reports of syringes and AIDS-tainted blood in vials washed ashore. In New York alone, 7,000 items of medical waste have been collected this year.