Could fake white sand on Turkish beaches that cause lung disease affect Greek islands?

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Turkey's General Directorate of Minerals Technical and Exploration (MTA) reported that the material laid on "white sand beaches" in Halicarnassus (Ἁλικαρνασσό: Turkish, Bodrum) is actually silica (quartz) sand.

The teams of the Provincial Directorate of Environment and Urbanization and Halicarnassus Municipality investigated that some beaches belonging to resorts poured quartz dust instead of white sand.

In the study, it was determined that the dust was poured onto several beaches before the tourism season.

The teams taking samples from the beaches kept a report by examining the sites, resorts, residences, restaurants, beach clubs and hotels in the region. It was stated that the findings will be forwarded to the Provincial Directorate of Environment and Urbanization, and the necessary sanctions will be applied to the enterprises. Warnings were given to the operating authorities to restore the beaches to its natural state.

In two samples taken, 85.3% and 92.4% of the "sand" was actually high silicon dioxide.

Geology Engineer M.Sc. Eşref Atabey made the following comment on the subject: “As a result of inhalation of quartz crystal powders, a type of pneumoconiosis disease called silicosis can emerge. Quartz powder can lead to fibrosis in the lungs. Lung damage occurs. Those who spend time on this sand at the beach, especially children, may be affected.”

However, the fake white sand does not only cause pneumoconiosis, it can have a devastating impact on the natural environment, a worrying thought for Greece considering tourist islands are just a short distance from Halicarnassus. The ferry road from the island of Kos to Halicarnassus port is only 45 minutes, but the closest point of Turkey to Kos is much closer.

Professor Uğur Sunlu of Ege University said changes to the natural environment of beaches affect maritime flora and fauna.

Speaking to Demirören News Agency (DHA), the professor said that beaches had their own biological diversity and that any outside intervention, no matter how trivial, will affect them.

“Every grain of sand has its own weight and mixing it with another material spoils the homogeneous nature of the beach. Rainwater, wind and waves cause the erosion of unnatural material and eventually carry it to sea. In about four months, you will see pollution along the coastline. Marble or quartz dust blur the waters and affect its transparency and other features like luminous transmittance. It is also harmful for moss, which needs a high amount of light and covers the algae, affecting its growth,” he warned.

Since Greek islands like Kos, Kalimnos, Leros and Pserimos are only a stones throw away from Halicarnassus peninsula, it does raise the question on whether the idiotic actions of Turkish resorts will affect the flora and fauna of these islands, as well as beach goers.

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For now there are no signs that the fake sand has affected any Greek islands, but authorities must watch this closely.