Research finds airborne toxins in Southwest Florida

Published: May 3, 2022 8:01 PM EDT
Updated: May 3, 2022 8:02 PM EDT

There’s new information about airborne toxins in Southwest Florida as research expands. Concerns are growing about the impact on the community and the air we breathe.

The Calusa Waterkeeper set up air samplers in various locations around Lee County last year after the red tide and blue-green algae outbreak in 2018.

The main reason for the research is that there was little to no research on the effect of airborne toxins on humans.

When we see the blue-green algae blooms and red tide, we know the impact it has on the water and the smell it produces. But what does it do to us when we breathe it in?

Manny Aparicio, Calusa Waterkeeper board member, said, “When water is bad, the air is bad.”

The Calusa Waterkeeper is using a device which is an aerosol detector for harmful algae monitoring, or ADAM, to define how bad that impact is.

They installed one last summer in Cape Coral.

So far, research suggests that airborne toxins may also affect human health and impact more people since these toxins can spread for more than four miles.

Dr. Paul Cox with Brain Chemistry Labs explained, “We know that for many toxic substances that if you inhale it, that actually provides more access to the bloodstream to the brain. Than even ingesting it.”

The need for answers is paramount, especially seeing the impact harmful toxins such as BMAA have on animals like dolphins.

Dr. David Davis with the University of Miami said, “They had these hallmark changes that we see in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.”

Researchers want to figure out if small frequent exposures can lead to an increased risk for disease.

ADAM aims to get more answers by providing more data and analysis of this likely growing health threat.

Waterkeeper John Cassani describes what’s next for their research. “If we left the sampler there for seven consecutive days and look and try to understand, did the concentrations vary over that seven days, that might give us more insight as to what the, you know what the total exposure might have been for that period of time.”

Also discussed Tuesday was whether a mask should be worn near the blooms.

The experts said that some masks would work some won’t for these toxins.

The recommendation, however, is to stay away from them as much as possible.