Red tide’s impact on Southwest Florida air quality

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Across Southwest Florida, we are starting to see the impacts of red tide on our coasts. But since the conditions are worsening, it’s also impacting the air we breathe.

Lea Edwards came to Southwest Florida to visit with family and said, “Right away, I think you can notice the smell.”

She has heard of red tide before but she says she doesn’t much experience with it. “I don’t think I’ve experienced it as much as I have today.”

Dead fish are lining the shore of Lighthouse Beach Park on Sanibel, which is currently under a red tide health alert.

“One of the big human health concerns with red tide would be the fact that when the cells get close to shore and they get in the breaking waves and things like that, they can burst and release the toxin into the sea spray,” said Mike Parsons, director of the Vester Field Station at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Parsons wants to measure red tide toxins in the air that give us irritation and make us cough. “How far do these toxins travel in the air then? And number two, since we’re also looking at that with the blue-green algae, could there be any interactions between microcystins from blue-green algae and brevetoxins from red tide?”

Those are the same methods as when he samples blue-green algae toxins in the air using canisters.

“We’ll put out the units, leave them on for a certain period of time, and then collect them,” Parsons said.

Edwards just hopes it gets better for her and her family so they can enjoy their visit. “I hope that it gets better and I hope that, yeah, for other people too, that they go to beaches that don’t have this.”

Parsons is considering placing air quality samplers at Vester Field Station, near Bonita Beach and in Cape Coral to see how red tide and blue-green algae toxins interact.


Red tide is running rampant off our Southwest Florida coast. More alerts were issued for your favorite areas on Wednesday, including¬†Lighthouse Beach Park, Tarpon Bay Beach Road and Lover’s Key.

Some people noticed dead fish along Fort Myers Beach on Wednesday.

WINK News Reporter Taylor Smith went to The Moorings near Naples and said that she could feel the effects.

People were coughing, including Kay Long from Naples. “As soon as I opened the door, I started coughing,” she said.

Not only could people feel the effects, but so could animals. There was plenty of dead fish washing up on Monday. Matt McCarthy saw some of them. “As soon as I opened the door, I started coughing.”

The dead fish on the shoreline doesn’t really scream “Merry Christmas.” Sydney Shaw says it’s terrible that this is what people will see for the holiday.

“It’s unfortunate to see our beautiful beaches be derailed by it,” Shaw said.

“A lot of times, it’s usually like late summer early fall, so by usually now you aren’t seeing much of it,” McCarthy said.

The smelly dead fish weren’t going to stop Sydney Shaw from celebrating her birthday on the beach.

“You can definitely feel it respiratory wise, but we all tried to wear masks to be safe and try to enjoy the beautiful weather,” Shaw said.

Some say the masks help with red tide effects. “I told the kids to bring their masks because I think it will help, and as you can see, I’m not coughing,” Long said.

Either way, beachgoers were willing to make the best out of a fishy situation. “I think it’s not the worst red tide we’ve ever had, so we’ll be OK, we’ll get through it. We just got to smile and wave,” said Katie Beth Varian.

Those with respiratory problems are being advised not to go out onto the beach right now.

Crews did take red tide samples Wednesday in Collier County and results should be available by Thursday.

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