SARASOTA, Florida. – Hundreds of thousands of pounds of dead fish washed up on beaches in Sarasota and Manatee counties in 2017 and 2018. As the red tide had its impact on the region, Roskamp Institute scientists were studying the effects on humans.
“A number of participants were reporting headaches, so we thought it would be a good idea to investigate the neurological effects further,” said Dr. Laila Abdullah, senior scientist at the Roskamp Institute.
In a recently published study, Dr. Abdullah and his team found that some people are susceptible to the neurological effects of airborne red tide toxins. This includes dizziness, headache, numbness, and reversal of hot and cold sensation.
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“What we found was that a number of participants were reporting neurological symptoms that are commonly reported when people have ingested contaminated seafood,” Dr Abdullah said. “Seafood contaminated with red tide toxin. What we found was that our participants had not eaten any seafood.”
There is still research to be done. Dr Abdullah said the next step for the team is to figure out what level of it in the air is triggering some of the reported symptoms.
The scientists worked on the study with the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS).
“The real take-home message here is that different people react differently to these inhaled toxins,” said Dr Barbara Kirkpatrick, who first linked red tide to respiratory problems in 2007.
She said research shows that toxins not only kill fish, but also impact those who breathe the air into which they are released.
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Currently, local beaches remain red tide free, but the search behind the toxin continues on and offshore.
“The message for people is to be really aware of the conditions, to be aware when there’s a red tide in town on our beaches,” she said. “Use the red tide forecast, look at the conditions on the beach, the time of day and make your decisions based on that information.”
Although there is no red tide present, red tide forecasts can help to observe what is happening.