FAU study tests air quality effects on SWFL residents

Amanda’s children love to play inside and outside with their trucks. They zoom around and maneuver to the delight of the boys.

But, they live in Cape Coral, which is nearby the canals that were once teeming with blue-green algae.

“My children come home with headaches,” Amanda said, a participant of an FAU study with stipulations concealing her full name. “Sometimes they’ll throw up at night after being outside and playing.”

So today, the buoyant children played inside at the Broadway Palm in Fort Myers.

While they played with their toys, Amanda and other southwest Florida residents donated blood samples, urine and nasal swabs to the Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.

“We’re looking at potential health effects and really how that relates to exposure to some of these blooms in Florida,” Adam Schaefer said, an epidemiologist at the Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. “Where they are potentially exposed to these blooms, how long, what activities.”

Schaefer then relates the data gathered to specific environmental concentrations that his team was able to measure. In short, the study marries ecological and human repercussions of the recent environmental disaster.

The volunteers filled out an intake form, which includes information about symptoms, zip codes and related questions that allow the researchers to create data sets.

“We really want to get at the bottom of what’s driving these blooms,” Schaefer said. “What chemicals compounds they’re all potentially producing and the effects … it all circles back and closing the loop with human health.”

If they find toxins in the blood or urine samples of the volunteers, researchers said, then that could mean a more serious impact. For a mother, it is information she would want to know.

Researchers estimate six months to nine months before results are released. The information gathered will be part of a bigger story the researchers are hoping to expand.

“I’m just so happy to see someone doing something,” Amanda said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate.

Reporter:Anika Henanger
Writer:Michael Mora
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