Air quality test show toxic conditions near algae blooms, residents worry about unknown health risks

Posted at 11:12 PM, Jul 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-27 04:59:57-04

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. -- Algae blooms have created toxic conditions in some parts of the St. Lucie River, and test results show they are also contributing to toxic conditions in the air.

New air quality test results were released Tuesday by Enviro Team North America, contracted by Martin County.

RELATED: Read the full report | Special section | Map of algae blooms in Florida

The air quality was tested in four locations in Rio and North River Shores in Stuart. The results showed varying levels of Microcystis particles present in the air, which are considered toxic.

The report details that there is no way to know right now what exactly this means to public health.

There is no standard for the risk of inhalation to humans like there is for physical contact with Microcystins in the blue-green algae.

That means doctors and health officials have less information about the health risks of breathing the toxins.

Martin County Health Officials urge people to continue to stay away from the blue-green algae blooms, and to try to be upwind from the blooms.

Stuart resident Greg Pannullo lives a couple hundred feet away from a test site in North River Shores. The smell was bad enough to keep him inside for weeks. “I didn’t let the children outside. We didn’t come outside at all… You couldn’t be out here longer than a few minutes. It smelled worse than a sewer,” Pannullo.

He fears the smell is now the least of his worries, learning the air near his home was potentially toxic.

The test results do not detail how far the toxins in the air spread, or how long they linger in the air. There is not information detailing know how long you have to be exposed to the toxins in the air to have negative health effects. 

Resident Robert Lytle lives even closer to the test site.

“It’s pretty scary,” he says. “Things can look better on the surface, but what’s still there in the immediate air?”

He’s hopeful his health hasn’t been impacted.

“If something happens to any of us over a period of years, what was the cause? Was it this?”

LINK: Read the full report