Calusa Waterkeeper looking into the effects of blue-green algae toxins

Published: September 13, 2022 5:14 PM EDT
Updated: September 13, 2022 5:22 PM EDT

As blue-green algae blooms grow, so do health concerns.

Lee County, the Department of Environmental Protection, and FGCU are all monitoring the situation as the Calusa Waterkeeper digs further into air quality testing to protect those living nearby.

John Cassani, the Calusa Waterkeeper, monitors the water to protect its quality and human health.

One of the ways he does that is with ADAM, the aerosol detector for harmful algae monitoring.

ADAM, the aerosol detector for harmful algae monitoring. (Credit: WINK News)

“So what we’re trying to do here is look at what potential blue-green algae toxins are in the air,” said Cassani.

The system simulates how much air a human would inhale over a 24-hour period, which is about two liters per minute.

“We know that when you’re inhaling it, it crosses that blood-brain barrier, becomes toxic, more toxic quicker than ingesting it. So that’s what we’re concerned about,” Cassani said.

Scientific research backs that up. A study by University of Miami researchers found a likely link between blooms and certain medical conditions.

Cassani and his team will send the filter and water samples to a brain chemistry lab in Wyoming.

“They are leaders in research on neurodegenerative diseases like ALS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s. And so we know that some of these toxins are, have a link to these neurodegenerative diseases, horrible diseases. And so we’re trying to quantify how much is in the air,” said Cassani. “We’re finding some toxins are always present. These are related to the BMA, a molecule. So those are, always seem to be present in almost every sample that we take relatively low concentrations.”

The question is how much exposure translates to risk. Cassani said it would probably be years before we have that answer. Neighbors living alongside blue-green algae-infested canals, like Doug Gills, worry about the consequences.

“I came out, and I’m like, it didn’t smell that bad course, my head is so stopped up,” said Gills. “It seems to me awful coincidental that my head gets stopped up in the canal at the same time.”

Results from the testing may be available next week.