Pollution threatens Mexico's 'Riviera'

Feb. 10, 2011 at 9:12 PM
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CANCUN, Mexico, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- The booming tourist industry on Mexico's Caribbean coast is polluting underwater caves and the world's second-largest coral reef, a study has found.

Researchers with the U.N. University's Institute for Water, Environment and Health say pharmaceuticals, cocaine residues, shampoo, toothpaste, pesticides, chemical runoff from roads and many other pollutants have been found along in the coast in the area of Cancun and the "Riviera Maya," Inter Press Service reported Thursday.

"There is little question the pollutants we detected have come from human activity along the coastal region," institute researcher Chris Metcalf said.

On the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, pit latrines, septic tanks and leaking sewer lines are sources of groundwater pollution that is carried into the coastal zone and the region's Mesoamerican Barrier reef, the second largest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, researchers said.

"Without serious attention to preventing groundwater contamination, tourist development will kill the goose that laid the golden egg," Metcalf said, referring to the economically important tourist industry.

With a projected ten-fold increase in the area's population through 2030, the problems are likely to worsen, Metcalf said.

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