SARASOTA, Fla. - Hundreds of thousands of pounds of dead fish washed ashore on Sarasota and Manatee counties beaches in 2017 and 2018. While red tide had its impact on the area, scientists at Roskamp Institute were studying the effects on humans.
"A number of participants were reporting headaches, so we thought it would be a good idea to study the neurological effects further," said Dr. Laila Abdullah, a senior scientist at Roskamp Institute.
In a newly published study, Dr. Abdullah and her team discovered some people are susceptible to neurological effects of airborne red tide toxins. This includes dizziness, headaches, numbness and a reversal of hot and cold sensation.
"What we found is that a number of participants were reporting neurological symptoms that are commonly reported when people have ingested contaminated seafood," said Dr. Abdullah. "Red tide toxin contaminated seafood. What we found was our participants had not eaten the seafood."
There's still more research to do. Dr. Abdullah said the team's next step is understanding what level of it is in the air that triggers some of the symptoms reported.
The scientists worked on the study with the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS).
"The real take home message here is different people react to these inhaled toxins differently," said Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick, who first linked red tide to respiratory issues in 2007.
She said the research shows the toxins not only kill fish, but impact those breathing the air it's released in.
Currently, local beaches remain red tide free, but the research behind the toxin continues on and offshore.
"The message for people is to really be aware of the conditions, be aware when there is a red tide in town on our beaches," she said. "Use the red tide forecast, look at the conditions at the beach, time of day and make your decisions based on that information."
While there is no red tide present, the red tide forecast can help observe what's happening.