IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. — Researchers are warning of the polluted waters off of Imperial Beach becoming aerosolized and polluting the air because of ocean spray.

“The bottom line is we don’t know what sort of effect is yet, of inhaling this sort of cocktail that comes out of the ocean,” said Dr. Kimberly Prather from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

Researchers report 76% of the pollutants found in the ocean match the pollutants found in the sea breeze, according to a study published to the Environmental Science and Technology Journal.

“You can see the spay a lot of times being broken off and this can dry down and basically leave aerosol that can float for miles,” Prather said.

The paper estimates billions of gallons of raw sewage and other toxic runoff have flooded into the Tijuana River and into the ocean because of a total meltdown in the sewage system in Mexico.

Researchers are not able to say if the bacteria and viruses found with their aerial monitoring equipment have infected people.

“These are things that have been a huge focus on concern about them being in the water and not so much in the air. And I’ll just say upfront, we really don’t have any studies that say what would happen if you inhale these. This is a different exposure pathway than we have thought about, that anybody has thought about before but now that we know we’re there, that is the next step,” Prather said.