SARASOTA, Fla. — Medical experts and researchers would like to study the potential long-term impact from red tide on humans and may now get the funding from the state to start.
Congressman Vern Buchanan put together a bill that has already passed through the state house designating $6.25 million from the National Institutes of Health to study the long-term health affects red tide may have on people.
"It’s a disaster for Florida,” said Buchanan, as he spoke about the impact Red tide had on the economy and environment in 2018. “Water quality is the most important issue I think in Florida. A good environment is good business.”
Dr. Kirk Voelker at Sarasota Memorial Hospital says physicians will come up to him and ask if there is a correlation between certain diseases and red tide.
"My answer to that is we just don’t know,” he said. "There was a significant uptick in people with exacerbation of their lung problems during the red tide,” he said.
The study would test the blood and urine of at least 400 volunteers during a red tide event, and before a red tide event to better understand how the neurotoxins affect a persons central nervous system and their blood.
"We’re looking at central nervous system disorders, neurological disorders for many years, Alzheimer’s disease, gulf war illness, Traumatic brain injury and what they have in common is inflammation,” said Michael Mullan, the Executive Director of the Roskamp Institute. “It’s a natural thing for us to look at red tide and the neurotoxin it releases because we know from animal studies it can cause inflammation.”
He says those neurotoxins can accumulate in the liver and the brain.
"One of the basic questions that’s not understood is having a robust immune response a good thing or is it a bad thing? Do you get more symptoms if you have a strong response or less symptoms? We don’t even know the basic answer to those questions,” he said.
The study will take place over the course of a few years. They will of course need to wait until another red tide event happens to complete the study entirely. The President and CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota says it will happen again.
"Is there a chance? Yes, there’s no question about it. I don’t wanna sugarcoat it,” said Dr. Michael P. Crosby.
He hopes with current mitigation efforts, it won’t be as severe as it was last year and says last years event did rank in the top 5 worst cases of red tide.
The bill still needs to be approved in the senate but Buchanan believes it will pass.
If you'd like to volunteer for the study, click here to sign up. You can also call Roskamp institute at 941-256-8019 ext. 3008.