FIU scientist calls on making research of airborne toxins from algae a 'high priority'

Researchers don't have info on toxin's impacts
Posted at 7:33 PM, Jul 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-28 04:52:16-04

A lot of Treasure Coast residents want to know how airborne toxins from algae could impact their health and the overall air quality. One scientist said even he doesn't have those answers, but it’s critical that we start doing the research to find them.

RELATED: Special section | Map of algae blooms in Florida

We've seen the algae in the water. Now tests results released by the Martin County confirm the algae is sending toxic particle called microcystin airborne.

“The toxins could go in through your lungs,” explained Kevin O’Shea, Ph.D., a  Florida International University professor

O’Shea said it's time to make the study of airborne algae toxins a "high priority."

He wants state and environmental leaders to push for more research into how breathing those toxins could affect our health.

“It’s definitely a concern to have aerosols that contain these toxins,” he pointed out.

O’Shea has studied the effects of algae in drinking water, but when it comes to the air, “In my quick search of the literature, there's very little done on this."

He believes researchers haven't focused on air quality research because these types of algae blooms usually happen in small areas and don't always send toxins into the air.

“You would need some windy conditions, or foam on top, to transfer these small water droplets into the air,” he explained.

He has to turn his attention to research of other toxins to guess what side effects breathing microcystins could cause.

“This could lead to a variety of different responses, to a kind of hay fever response, to nausea,” he said.

For now, O’Shea suggested the public avoid areas affected by algae. He said even if algae itself appears to be gone, the toxins may not be.