FAU researchers seek Cape Coral residents for blue-green algae study

Published: September 21, 2022 5:25 AM EDT
Updated: September 21, 2022 6:22 AM EDT

Researchers from Florida Atlantic University are looking for Cape Coral residents to help study the long-term effects of blue-green algae on the body.

The research team is recruiting everyday people to participate in a study in which they will complete a survey, give a nasal swab and provide urine and blood tests. These tests will determine if your body has been exposed to algae toxins. 150 volunteers are currently enrolled, but the FAU researchers need 30 more.

They specifically want volunteers who live on or near impacted bodies of water in Cape Coral, “near” meaning up to 10 miles away. Dr. Shirley Gordon—FAU professor, advanced holistic nursing MSN, coordinator and co-director of the Initiative for Intentional Health—says environmental studies show these toxins can travel as far as 10 miles from the bloom in the air.

“What we don’t know is what, if any, are the long-term health impacts of long-term exposure or chronic exposure to harmful algal blooms over time,” Gordon said. “For people that are living on or near impacted bodies of water, they have concerns about their long-term exposure year after year when we have harmful algal blooms.”

Blue-green algae on a Cape Coral waterway. Credit: WINK News

Gordon says we already know the short-term effects of algae blooms like difficulty breathing, skin irritation and, in severe cases, liver damage. But since this is a study to find out the long-term effects, it may take some time before they get real answers.

“This is a long-term cohort study, so we hope to run this study for at least 10 years,” Gordon said. “We are in the third year of data collection for this specific study and it is built on some previous work that was done by the research team, so we’ve been looking at this for quite a while now. But, to answer the question regarding the impact of long-term exposure, we really have to look at that over a period of about 10 years.”

There will be two data collection sessions: the first when algae are not blooming and the second during an algae bloom. Each session will take 15 to 30 minutes. Participation is free and you will receive up to $25 in gift cards for helping out. Visit the FAU website for information on how to participate in the algae study.