Blue-green algae blooms can produce chemicals called cyanotoxins which can affect the liver, nervous system, and skin, but is usually only a concern when exposed at high concentrations such as if the member drank substantial amounts of the contaminated water. The blue-green algae blooms often create a foul smell that may irritate the respiratory system in sensitive individuals. Symptoms will usually quickly subside when no longer exposed to the hazard. Additionally, individuals with sensitive skin may develop a rash.
Individuals should avoid ingesting or making contact with any water potentially contaminated with the blue-green algae. If any member ingests water or comes in contact with the algae and starts experiencing adverse health effects they should seek medical assistance. Since the AUX member may have come into contact with the blue-green algae several days ago, they can still attend medical and ask to have an acute exposure form included in their medical record.
Floridahealth.gov has released some very helpful information to assist individuals in better understanding the hazard and ways to mitigate the risk:
If the Auxiliary would like to release a safety message, they can use the information provided from floridahealth.gov/ to assist in the development of the message. We would be happy to review the message and make recommendations prior to its release. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns with this information or if you have any future health and safety questions.
The Gulf Coast of Florida has been plagued by both blue-green algal blooms and red tide this summer.
What is a harmful algal bloom?
Harmful algal blooms, also known as HABs, occur when colonies of alge that live in fresh or saltwater grow out of control and produce toxic or harmful effects on people and aquatic wildlife. Some algae produce toxins that can kill fish, mammals and birds and may cause illnesses in humans. Other aalgae are nontoxic, but when they bloom may use up all of the oxygen in the water, smother corals, aquatic vegetation and wildlife, discolor and even contaminate drinking water. When these events occur, they are collectively call harmful algal blooms.
What is the green slim?
Resembling pea soup, the blue-green algae blooms are caused by freshwater cyanobacteria, which are commonly found in Florida's lakes, rivers and estuaries. Under favorable environmental conditions, they can grow and accumulate forming blooms. Although there are many drivers that cause blue-green algae blooms to form, research has shown that these freshwater blooms are influenced by excess nutrients, such as fertilizers and sewage, entering waterways. Blue-green algae blooms negatively impact aquatic ecosystems by blocking sunlight to submerged vegetation and reducing oxygen available to other aquatic organisms. Additionally, toxins produce by cyanobacteria can be harmful to humans and aquatic life.
What is red tide?
The red tide poisoning thousands of fish, birds, sea turtles and marine mammals along the coast of Florida is caused by a dinoflagellate (a type of marine microorganism) called Karenia brevis. This species of algae produces brevotoxins, which can affect the central nervous system of fish and other vertebrates. These potent toxins can kill marine life, make shellfish toxic to eat and can cause respiratory irritation in humans if the toxin becomes airborne. Florida red tides develop 10-40 miles offshore away from humans influence and naturally occur under ideal environmental conditions. However, research suggests one the blooms move inshore, the algae can use both human-contributed and natural nutrients. Since K. brevis cannot tolerate low-salinity waters, the blooms generally remain in marine coastal waters.
As a boater, what can you do?