Blue-green algae toxins found in air particles, study finds

The results revealed toxins in the air after researchers from Florida Gulf Coast University set up two separate testing locations in response to the blue-green algae collecting in Southwest Florida water.

The study, done by a team from FGCU alongside Dr. Mike Parsons, tested air samples near blooms of the bacteria to find out if the potential toxins are in the air, as well as testing in southern Lee County to compare.
The results are a mix of good and bad news.

The bad: toxins were found in all different size particles, big and small, at both the Cape Coral collection location nearest the Cyanobacteria bloom and at the Bonita Springs Vester Field location of FGCU.

The good news: the levels of toxins were extremely low.
“I was surprised that it was found in all size fractions,” said Dr. Mike Parsons with FGCU. “I was very surprised that we found it here at the Vester field station where we didn’t expect to detect the toxins.”

The research team from FGCU set up the primary testing on a Cape Coral canal filled with blue-green algae for a two week period beginning in late September.

The second sample was taken in Bonita Springs.
Both samples came back with matching toxic levels in all particle sizes.

“We could detect toxins in very, very small particles that will go all the way down into your air sacs which is where you have an exchange with your bloodstream,” Dr. Parsons said. “The vehicle is there for the toxins to get all the way into your lungs, which would represent the biggest concern and biggest threat, but it was at low levels in all of the size fractions so it’s not a threat right now.”

The toxins were just as bad in Bonita Springs, where the bacteria wasn’t visible in the water, as in Cape Coral.

“The fact that we saw it [in Bonita Springs] suggests that there might be a background level that we’re seeing all over the area,” said Parsons. “That suggests we may be dealing with background concentrations.”

“Again a very low level that doesn’t appear to represent any kind of health risk,” Dr. Parsons explained. There are limited human studies connected to Cyanobacteria and Microcystin, but Dr. Parsons and his team reviewed several studies involving mice and sheep.

“What it suggests is that for people to be affected with this low level of toxin would take 350 years of breathing it in,” Dr. Parsons said.

While it is a mix of good and bad news, Parsons calls this the first step of this research.

“If and when there’s another large Cyanobacteria bloom it’s something we’ll look at more closely,” he said. “It was basically a confirmation step, saying yes this is something we should be looking at more closely.”

Even so, Dr. Parsons and his team at FGCU feel confident in the findings and research process so far.

“These are extremely low concentrations and the only reason we can detect them so low is we had the technology to go that low,” he explained. “It doesn’t really represent a threat that we know of, so people don’t need to be alarmed.”

Copyright 2018 WBBH/WZVN (Waterman Broadcasting). All rights reserved.

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By |2018-12-01T16:43:39+00:00December 1st, 2018|

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