Toxic Algae: Researchers say airborne chemicals present last year

Reporter: Anika Henanger
Published: Updated:
Photo by WINK News.

There is new proof waterways in Southwest Florida clogged with blue-green algae released high toxins into the air for months. FGCU researchers told WINK News there are not enough studies about how these airborne chemicals impact us.

New test results revealed high levels in Cape Coral months ago, during a time when blue-green algae covered its canals.

“It was three times lower than we measured along the coast and where the cyanobacteria was happening in Cape Coral,” said Dr. Mike Parsons, researcher at FGCU.

But is this much a threat? The team said they’re working with health experts to get answers, but there is little data that measures recorded dangers due to chemicals released by the algae.

“If people are concerned, they should stay away,” Parsons said. “Homeowners if you’re concerned, stay away.”

“We all had respiratory problems this year,” said Anthony Karp, a Cape Coral homeowner. “We don’t know if it’s because of a strain of flu going around, or is it because the aerosol was affecting our respiratory system.”

The scientists are warning the public to pay attention to how air near the algae affects them. After algae clogged the canal near Karp’s home last summer, he’s already preparing for this year.

“If it gets so bad, I have people I can go and probably stay with for a little while until there’s some relief,” Karp said.

Parsons, who has a Ph.D in biological oceanography, first set up filters for a pilot study at Karp’s home in the fall, where they found airborne toxins.

“They show that the B in AAA in the microsystem is getting in the air,” Karp said. “So you know we’re inhaling this stuff. And how long is it going to take before it has some harmful effects?”

Parson’s team worked to find out. They set up filters in the winter to compare the results to a spot far from any algae.

“At least a mile away from any water source,” Parson said.

Another concern is how much higher the levels could have been at the height of the bloom.

Researchers tested as soon as they got the equipment in place. But by then, the algae started to dry up. While we wait, they recommend people continue to stay aware of how their body may react to the algae near them.

“I’m just going to make sure myself and my neighbors we’re all prepared this year with some kind of plan to just deal with it,” Karp said.

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