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Decaying Harmful Algal Blooms Still Dangerous: New Model Predicts Toxicity to Humans

Published on: 12/11/2013
Region(s) of Study: U.S. States and Territories / Florida
Primary Contact(s): quay.dortch@noaa.gov

Declining (terminating) harmful algal blooms continue to pose health hazards. When some harmful algal blooms die and disappear, their toxicity continues to affect the air above the bloom-infested waters. Some dinoflagellates produce toxins – such as the brevetoxins from the Florida red tide (Karenia brevis)that are readily aerosolized when nearshore blooms die and release their toxins into the water. When the aerosolized toxins are transported to the coast, an increase in asthma attacks and pulmonary diseases is observed.

New NCCOS-sponsored research from the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida is predicting how declining blooms of K. brevis can lead to health hazards for humans. When K. brevis cells die and lyse, releasing toxins, waves aerosolize and wind transports the toxins to nearby beaches and communities. Using a ‘Harmful Algal Bloom Simulations’ (HABSIM) numerical model, the study (published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series ) simulates the many variables that lead to cell death and cell lysis to more accurately predict the processes of bloom termination, release of wind-borne toxin aerosols, and transport mechanisms. This new model is expected to benefit coastal residents and tourists in both the United States and Europe, where nearshore red tide events produce brevetoxins and aerosols are transported onshore causing breathing distress.

For more information, contact Quay.Dortch@noaa.gov.

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