SARASOTA, Fla. (FOX 13) - When red tide moved in, the beaches went empty.
The smell of dead animals was bad enough, but the toxins from red tide floating in the air made it worse.
For people suffering from asthma, COPD, and other respiratory problems, breathing could be dangerous. It even affected people with no underlying health problems.
Dr. Michael Mullan, the executive director of the Roskamp Institute, is working to collect blood and urine samples from 400 volunteers in an effort to figure out exactly what those toxins do inside the human body.
"Some people are much more affected than others," explained Dr. Mullan. "We need to understand that and understand why that is and how we can take care of that."
In order for his data to be complete, he is taking samples twice: once when red tide is gone and again when it comes back. His is the first research of its kind.
"Surprisingly, there are no long term follow up studies in humans to see if there are any long term consequences. We need to know the answer to that," he said.
As scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory work to find a solution to neutralize toxins in the air, Congressman Vern Buchanan has asked the government to help. He asked the National Institutes of Health to designate $6.25 million for research on what red tide and other algae blooms can do to humans.
"I want them to have the money, the research, provide the science and wherever that takes us it takes us and I’ll provide the funding," said Buchanan.
The bill has passed in the House but still needs to go through the Senate. Buchanan said the bill has bipartisan support, so he's hopeful it will be passed and the money can be distributed soon.
Dr. Kirk Voelker at Sarasota Memorial Hospital said it can't happen soon enough.
"We won’t have any investigational research unless there is funding for it. Somebody has to say this is an important enough question to have answered and we are willing to sponsor some research," said Dr. Voelker.
The Roskamp Institute hopes to recruit more volunteers for the study while red tide is not present in the Bay Area. For information, visit https://www.roskampinstitute.org/.