There’s no escaping the smell of dead fish on Sanibel.
And you can’t run away from dead fish on the shore.
“People are familiar with the smell of red tide. But it’s because of the putrefaction, what you can actually feel, the actual toxins that you can’t feel,” said Manny Aparicio, Calusa Waterkeeper board member.
Aparicio said we know the short-term effects of toxins, coughing, sneezing and watery eyes.
“Some people are very sensitive about it. So they’re going to start feeling the effects,” Aparicio said.
But Aparicio said we don’t know much about the long-term effects.
“It’s not just respiratory, it’s gastrointestinal,” Aparicio said. “In particular, we’re very interested in the neurological, neurodegenerative diseases that many of these toxins can cause.”
You don’t have to be in the water or right next to a bloom to be affected by it. Research shows that you may be miles away and toxins may be present in the air.
A 2018 FGCU study confirms this.
That’s where Adam comes in, an aerosol detector for monitoring harmful algae.
The Caloosah Water Keeper puts Adam on the spot from the Caloosahatchee River to Sanibel.
“Inside here is the air pump. And you can see through the tube, it’s pulling air. So basically it’s breathing over a 24-hour period,” Aparicio said.
As the air passes through, it traps any toxins in two methods: in this filter and in this water. These samples are then sent to brain chemistry labs in Wyoming.
The goal is to better understand what people are exposed to when such blooms occur.
These sample sites are reviewed every two weeks.