Researchers determine how far blue-green algae toxins could spread through the air

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
Algae bloom
Blue-green algae. Credit: WINK

Researchers have confirmed that blue-green algae is airborne. It can spread through the air for miles and last for hours. Algae could also be wreaking havoc on our air quality.

“Apocalyptic is the only way I can describe it,” said Chris Wittman, co-founder of and program director for Captains for Clean Water.

Wittman is referring to the blue-green algae and red tide blooms of 2018. “Almost a chemical or decaying type smell. You could definitely feel it in your sinuses.”

New research from the University of Florida is putting a timeline on the length and reach of blooms traveling through the air.

“We were looking at trying to understand how long microcystin, which is one of the toxins found in cyanobacteria or blue-green algae, one of the more prevalent or notorious ones, how long that lasts in the air,” said Dr. Dail Laughinghouse, assistant professor at UF.

Laughinghouse says in normal daylight conditions, the toxins can last a little under two hours. “But at higher sunlight, higher OH and higher ozone, it degrades faster,” he said.

The study also found that while toxins can decay quickly in the air, many residential areas within about 10 miles from a blue-green algae bloom can be affected by the aerosols.

“We understand the timeframe of how long it lasts in the air; however, we don’t understand all of the influencing factors that make it decay rapidly,” Laughinghouse said.

Now, we’ve gotten one step closer to understanding how the harmful algae bloom impact us.

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.