Researchers from Florida Atlantic University need a new group of volunteers who live near canals for an ongoing study of the long-term health effects of exposure to blue-green algae.
The three-part study of people’s health, the water, and the air have been ongoing since 2018. At the time, the strange color and smell of blue-green algae clogging Cape Coral canals were inescapable. Researchers want to know exactly how breathing in the stinky, decomposing mess can affect your body in the long run.
They also want to know how that will affect aquatic life in the future, as the blooms have been seen to leave dead fish in the canals.
Dr. Shirley Gordon, a professor at FAU’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, is conducting the long-term research project alongside scientists from Florida Gulf Coast University. They want definitive answers about what breathing near this gunk does to your body, and they need your help.
If you want to participate, you must be 18 or older and live, play, or work around the water in Cape Coral. You’ll also have to agree to provide blood and urine samples and get a nasal swab.
While you may not see any effects right now, Gordon says that’s the idea.
“The goal of the study is to initially establish a baseline during a nonbloom time period, where we look to see what levels of the toxins are present in blood, urine and nasal swabs,” Gordon said. “And then we test again, every time there is a bloom. So, in 2018, there was a large bloom.”
Jeanae Smith and Peter McGuckiam volunteered for the tests because they wanted to know if the blue-green algae that forms in Cape Coral’s canals harmful to their health.
“We live on a canal so we’ve smelled it and lived with it for a long time,” Smith said.
“We’re following people over a long period of time,” Dr. Harvey said.
McGuckiam experienced the green blobs firsthand.
“I was taking pictures on a dock. And I fell through the dock. And I just went under scraped myself, had wounds to myself was in the water for about a good 20 30 minutes,” McGuckiam said.
He said if there are long-term effects, he probably has them.
“I was concerned I thought I’d come here and hopefully help,” McGuckiam said.
WINK News asked FGCU research lab coordinator, Miranda Barrington, did McGuckiam’s fall into the gunk put him more at risk.
“I don’t think we really know what would be the most harmful, you know, method of exposure, you know, breathing it in, or, you know, ingesting or swimming,” Barrington said.
We already know there are short-term symptoms from exposure, including rashes, vomiting, cramps, and upper respiratory issues.
“The light at the end of the tunnel might be that we discovered there are no long-term health effects from exposure to harmful algal blooms,” Gordon said. “Or, if we discover that there are potential long-term health effects, then we can also identify those persons who are most at risk so that they can take whatever strategies are necessary to mitigate the exposure that they have to harmful algal blooms.”
The study occurs from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. on Monday and from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Tuesday at the Cape Coral Public Works Department, located at 1015 Culture Park Blvd. Walk-ins are welcome and encouraged.