Study taking place on effects of blue-green algae in Southwest Florida

Reporter: Nicole Gabe
Published: Updated:

Smelly, unsightly and damaging to Southwest Florida beaches and waterways, all words describing red tide and blue-green algae.

And Southwest Florida has experienced more than its fair share of both.

But can those blooms impact your health?

“This is in direct response to a call from the community to answer that very question,” said Dr. Shirley Gordon, of the Christine E. Lynne College of Nursing at Florida Atlantic University.

The concern comes from images like in 2018 when thick blue-green algae covered Cape Coral’s canals.

Questions surfaced about breathing in the stinky, decomposing mess and the stench from the aquatic life it suffocated.

Gordon, together with FGCU, answered the call to investigate.

“Our study is really focused on determining whether or not there is a long-term health effect to exposure to the toxins in the harmful algal blooms,” Gordon said.

While the study started shortly after the 2018 outbreak, Gordon calls it longterm research and because people come and go, they’re always looking for people to take part.

“Especially following the hurricanes. Last season, some people have moved out of the area. But that’s also why we add new participants each year so that we can maintain a sufficient number of actively enrolled participants,” Gordon said.

To participate means, you are 18 years or older, live on or near or play or work around the water.

You also must agree to provide blood and urine samples and get nasal swabs.

While you might think, wait, there are no blooms right now, Gordon adds, that’s the idea.

“The goal of the study is to initially establish a baseline during a non-bloom time period,” Gordon said. “Then we test again, every time there is a bloom.”

And it’s a three-part study. Gordon handles human samples while FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute does the water. And Dr. Mike Parsons, a professor of marine science at FGCU oversees air sampling.

If there is an active red ride bloom, Gordon and her team will test for those toxins as well. If you’re interested in participating, sampling happens on Monday and Tuesday at the Cape Coral Public Works Department at 815 Nicholas Parkway East Monday from noon to 4 p.m. And on Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome.

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