Last week, BuzzFeed published an article titled “19 Reasons Not To Go To The Beach This Summer.” In reality, the article contained only one reason—and as they hinted, it “rhymes with shmarks.”
— Kyle Hill (@Sci_Phile) June 20, 2014
Not surprisingly, the article—which BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith claimed was meant as a “parody”—upset a lot of shark scientists, science communicators, and BuzzFeed readers. Yet BuzzFeed stuck to their guns, saying that clearly, those who find the article distasteful lack a sense of humor and simply don’t get the joke.
— Christie Wilcox (@NerdyChristie) June 19, 2014
— Katharine The Shark (@Shark_Katharine) June 21, 2014
We got it, BuzzFeed—we just didn’t think it was funny.
“Jokes” like this one (and the very real fear that BuzzFeed is “mocking”) are part of why so many shark species are declining or already threatened. The idea that sharks are dangerous, deadly, and otherwise unwelcome where we want to swim is devastatingly common. The pervasive, irrational fear of sharks isn’t something to make light of, particularly when such fear has real consequences for wildlife conservation. For example, the fear of shark attacks on beaches is what the Western Australian government used to justify implementing a massive shark cull that more than 100 shark scientists and 2/3 of Western Australians oppose. So far, the cull has cost over a million dollars and killed more non-target sharks than targeted ones, yet the government still plans to continue the cull for years to come.
Besides, if you’re going to make light of death at the beach, you should at least make it statistically valid. Maybe you should fear the beach—but not because of the Chondrichthyes beneath the waves. Sharks generally avoid people, and even when they don’t, the odds that you’ll be killed by a shark are unbelievably low. Since the 1500s, there have been less than 500 fatal shark attacks worldwide. Sharks kill less than five people every year globally and less than one person per year in the US. As the Dodo pointed out, there are far deadlier things to be afraid of.
Of the many reasons why beaches aren’t safe, sharks are the least of your worries. To show you what I mean, I present to you 19 beachy things that are more likely to kill you than sharks—in proper BuzzFeed form.
1. The Sand.
- via gifrific.com
Turns out it’s really hard to breathe through sand. Problem is, people like to dig tunnels and holes and play around in all this beach sand that doesn’t like to do what it’s told. Between 1985 and 2007, there were 31 sand hole deaths in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Fatal shark attacks? Less than 30—making the sand at the beach statistically more dangerous than the sharks in the water.
2. The Sun.
Soaking up those rays is truly killer: more than 600 people die every year from overexposure to natural heat, says the CDC.
3. No really, THE DAMNED SUN.
- via bli.uci.edu
More than 50,000 people die every year from melanoma. Sure, you might not notice it that one day at the beach, but all that fun in the sun can have serious consequences.
4. You probably don’t want to get in the water.
More than 400,000 drowning deaths worldwide annually according to the World Health Organization. According to the CDC, somewhere between 400 and 500 drowning occur in US waters annually during non-boating activities like snorkeling and swimming (and that’s just the ones not in pools—that statistic is much higher!).
5. Especially around rip currents.
- via onr.navy.mil
The US Lifesaving Association estimates that rip currents alone are responsible for more than 100 deaths a year.
6. Don’t get on the water, either.
- via ebaumsworld.com
You’re not safe above the waves—The US Coast Guard has found that between 500 and 1000 boating fatalities occur every year in US waters.
7. Not even on a Jet Ski.
- via 4gifs.com
Personal water crafts, like jet skis, cause 30-50 deaths in the US alone every year according to the US Coast Guard. Besides, you never look as cool as you think you do on them.
8. I would avoid the food (even if it came from the same beach)
Food-borne illnesses kill thousands of Americans every year, and though exact numbers are hard to track down because of low reporting rate and misdiagnoses, according to the World Health Organization, hundreds may die annually from Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning alone, and then there’s ciguatoxin, scombrotoxin, and the other fish and shellfish-related toxins just waiting to do you in.
9. You know that old saying “you’re more likely to be struck by lightning”?
- via wifflegif.com
Well, yeah, you are. Around 70 people are killed annually by lightning in the United States according to NOAA. The National Ocean Service says to keep in mind that there is no safe place outside during storms!
10. You’re also more likely to be killed by a tsunami
Sure, they might be less frequent than storms. But since 1946, tsunamis have killed more than 350 people in the US alone, and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami wiped out hundreds of thousands of lives in a single day.
11. Avoid the beach bar.
Did you know that, according to the CDC, there are approximately 88,000 deaths attributable to excessive alcohol use each year in the United States? 88,000 people killed because of alcohol, while less than one dies from a shark bite. Makes that fruity cocktail look a whole lot less refreshing, doesn’t it?
12. Just GETTING to the beach is dangerous.
- via gifbin.com
Between 2000 and 2009, more than 43,000 people in the United States died each year in transportation-related incidents. Globally, more than 810,000 people die from road traffic injuries every year, making it the fourth highest cause of death.
13. Besides, beaches are disgusting.
It’s not uncommon for beaches to be closed because of E. coli contamination, most often because of sewage runoff. E. coli infections kill somewhere between 50 and 100 people in the US every year, according to CDC research.
14. Really, really, really disgusting.
According to the NRDC, lots of beaches pose serious health risks because of pollution. We’re not talking a little gulp of diarrhea-inducing E. coli. We’re talking exposure to hepatitis, cholera and typhoid fever—diseases responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths every year.
15. Yes, even the clean-looking ones.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, known as MRSA, makes E. coli seem nice—and it’s all over our beaches, even when they pass water quality tests. Around 10,000 people die every year from the deadly superbug MRSA in the US alone by the CDC’s count, and it’s been detected in beaches in Florida, Washington and California (basically, everywhere that anyone has looked).
16. Animals scarier than sharks at a beach? For one, jellyfish.
Oh, those needle-looking things? Those would be jellyfish nematocysts firing. Each one is laced with painful venom. Sharks only kill a handful of people every year—jellyfish, on the other hand, kill around 100, according to some scientific estimates.
17. Oh, and BEES.
- via giphy.com
Yeah, bees and their relatives are awful. Somewhere upwards of 100 people die of stings die in the US from stinging insects every year, according to the CDC, half of which are by bees alone.
18. And then are these little buggers:
Mosquitos are arguably the most deadly animal on the planet, responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide every year. And yes, they are on the beach, too.
19. And, of course, there’s the most dangerous animal you’ll ever encounter at a beach:
Yeah, that’s right. People kill more than 460,000 other people globally every year. And then there’s all the deaths from the communicable diseases those other people could be carrying, like HIV (2,279,000 deaths/yr), tuberculosis (1,531,000 deaths/yr), and the flu (up to 500,000 deaths/yr).
But perhaps the person you should be most afraid of is you. Suicides account for more than 870,000 deaths every year, and are consistently in the top ten causes of death worldwide. So, too, are heart disease (7,157,000 deaths/yr), strokes (5,472,000 deaths/yr), and diabetes (754,000), making your life choices the #1 leading cause of death.