Florida's coast is rich with wildlife and a beautiful balance of marine life but an increase in incidents and severity of Red Tide has had significant environmental, ecological, economic and health impacts.
What is Red Tide?
Red Tide is a term used to describe a dangerous algal bloom (DAB) known as Karenia brevis (commonly called K. brevis) that often results in a rusty red color of water and the death of many marine wildlife including fish, birds, turtles, and marine mammals because it produces toxic neurotoxins that essentially paralyze marine life and remove oxygen from the water.
How Does K. Brevis Spread?
According to scientists, red tide blooms usually begin between 10 to 40 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. These blooms are brought to the water's surface through upswelling and, from there, are brought into the shore via winds and currents. Additional research has shown, also, that K. Brevis can also be inhaled by humans and other animals, such as pets. Further, the same research showed that these toxins have been found present "at least 4.2 kilometers [2.6 miles] from the beach and/or 1.6 kilometers [.99 miles] from the coastal shoreline".
How Does Red Tide Grow?
K. Brevis needs particular elements to survive and flourish: proper temperature, light, and sustaining levels of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous. As it moves closer to the shore, K. Brevis receives abundant nitrogen as a result of the Red Tide fish kills that promote decay. It has also been found that these blooms can receive necessary nutrients from such sources as "air pollution, releases from rivers and estuaries, and estuarine flux."
What Are the Risks of K. Brevis?
The most significant health risks to humans and pets from Red Tide is the pulmonary (lung) effects of those with respiratory conditions like emphysema, COPD, or asthma but there have also been reports of skin and eye irritation when exposed to these toxins either by inhaling or physical contact. Experts suggest that individuals with these kinds of respiratory problems avoid coastlines and beaches until the Red Tide has passed.
Can Red Tide Affect Your Home's Water?
The short answer is: No.
Because K. Brevis needs salinity (salt water) to thrive, it cannot survive in fresh water sources. However, since K. Brevis has been found to transfer inland via the wind by as much as 2.5 miles, it can't be said conclusively that these toxins won't travel to a natural water supply and contaminate it before dying.
While K. Brevis won't survive in fresh water sources, the risk of physical exposure either by air or by touch is still present. Additionally, another DAB called Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) thrive in the same conditions as K. Brevis and - unlike K. Brevis - can survive in brackish and fresh water and estuaries. This naturally occurring algae bloom is present in Florida as well as many other parts of the world and has been proven to present multiple health risks either through contact with these blooms or drinking them in the water.
How To Be Sure
Very few times have there been Red Tide outbreaks on the east coast of Florida compared to the Gulf coast but the latest bloom of Red Tide has managed to spread to both, surprising east coast residents and businesses.
As science and research continue to monitor the behavior and movement of K. Brevis as well as other DAB's, one of the best and safest things for residents to do is to simply have their water tested, and ensuring your water system has appropriate filtration. Certain Services, Inc. is a family owned and operated water treatment business and we welcome the opportunity to discuss ways to ensure you and your family have a clean and healthy water supply at home. Contact us today to find out more.