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FAU tests for harmful algal bloom exposure

Posted at 6:56 PM, Oct 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-15 18:56:58-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Dozens of Southwest Florida community members were tested by Florida Atlantic University researchers for harmful algae bloom exposure, Monday.

The FAU Harbor Branch's Florida Center for Coastal and Human Health study aims to measure and map exposure to potential microcystins, or toxins released from blue-green algae, and find out how that affects human health.

Each participant in the blind study was given a questionnaire that asked about medical history. They then took blood and urine tests, in addition to a nose swab. Nose swabs will show researchers if microcystin is present in people's nostrils, while blood and urine tests will show whether the toxins traveled through the subject's body. "We're working on the measurement, we're looking at the potential health effects, and really how that relates to exposure to some of these blooms in Florida," said Study Director Adam Schaefer.

Volunteers were eager to assist. One anonymous volunteer tells 4 In Your Corner she was experiencing negative health symptoms. "I have lung issues and I couldn't go out of my home and I couldn't breathe. I live on Sanibel," they said. "I'm glad they're doing it because this must be having lasting effects on peoples health."

Results for the tests will not be available because it is a blind study. However, the research should be peer reviewed and published several months to a year from now.

Schaefer hopes to expand his research. Monday's event was part of a bigger project monitoring HABS all over Florida.