FGCU air quality results are in, suggests toxins are airborne

Reporter: Anika Henanger
Published: Updated:
Blue-green algae build up in a SWFL canal. Photo via WINK News.
Blue-green algae build up in a SWFL canal. Photo via WINK News.

After months of collecting and processing data from algae-plagued canals, we may know more about how the water quality crisis affects our air.

In September, Florida Gulf Coast University researchers took matters into their own hands and created an air quality pump to test how blue-green algae affects our air.

The air filter test was installed on the side of a water-front home in Cape Coral near a canal with blue-green algae present.

In a report that was released early Tuesday morning, FGCU researchers have now confirmed very low levels of toxins called microcystin coming from blue-green algae in the air near Cape Coral canals.

Dr. Mike Parsons, of marine science at FGCU, said they found the toxins in all levels of the air filters used for testing. Parsons said this means people can breathe in the toxin through their nose and mouth into their lungs; consequently, researchers said the toxins can likely enter people’s bloodstream, kidneys and liver.

However, they found the toxins at very low levels, meaning they don’t appear to be a threat to human health right now, Parsons said.

“There have been no studies I could find were researchers looked at people being exposed microsysten in the air instead I found a study on mice and sheep,” he said. “So based on these other studies, if mice in particular were responding to the toxins the same way that people would, it would take you about 350 years to accumulate enough toxin to be of any concern,” Parsons said.

They will be testing for BMAA, a neurotoxin thought to be associated with blue-green algae, in the next few weeks to see if it is also airborne. Parsons says no one should be alarmed, but it points to the need to find ways to remove the algae quickly and for further testing.

MORE: FGCU researchers test air quality for toxins

They ran the tests for the past two months and sent the multilayered filter to Yale University, where it was put through extensive testing.

Researchers were looking to see if they would find the microcystin towards the bottom of the filter, meaning the toxins could reach the bloodstream like oxygen does.

Florida Gulf Coast researchers say more testing is needed. Trust WINK News to follow their effort in understanding our water quality crisis.

You can find our complete water quality coverage here. 

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