Pharmaceuticals, pesticides, chemical run-off from highways and many other pollutants infiltrate the giant aquifer under Mexico's "Riviera Maya," a new study shows.
The report published in the journal Environmental Pollution argues that the waste contaminates a vast labyrinth of water-filled caves under the popular tourist destination on the Yucatan Peninsula.
The polluted water flows through the caves and into the Caribbean Sea. This pollution may have contributed to the loss since 1990 of up to 50 percent of corals on the reefs off the region's coast, the report said.
And, with a 10-fold increase in population through 2030 expected, the problems are likely to worsen, the study noted.
"These findings clearly underline the need for monitoring systems to pin-point where these aquifer pollutants are coming from," said Chris Metcalfe, senior research fellow of the United Nations University's Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health.
"As well, prevention and mitigation measures are needed to ensure that expanding development does not damage the marine environment and human health and, in turn, the region's tourism-based economy," Metcalfe added.