All Points Medical Waste Blog

Florida’s toxic algae—Are you at risk?

What you need to know to protect yourself & your family

It’s been all over the news and if you live in Florida, it’s likely you’ve even seen it with your own eyes, the mucky, green slime that is swirling around in the waterways and washing up onshore. It not only looks ominous and gives off a foul stench, but has been responsible for the deaths of marine wildlife. And now, officials are warning residents to stay clear, touting that the “red-tide” as it’s called, is also harmful to humans, causing illness and possible long-term health conditions. Here’s what you need to know:

What is the algae?

Blue-green algae, also called cyanobacteria are actually a natural part of the environment and can be found all over the world. They occur in marine environments and freshwater and brackish waters. Although a natural occurrence, the algae blooms that are infecting the waters in Florida are a result of pollution from farm fields and septic tanks leaching into the water, and nitrogen and phosphorous and other nutrients acting as fertilizer, creating the environment for it to thrive. These explosive algae blooms contain toxins capable of killing marine wildlife and causing liver and brain disease.

Where is the algae?

The blue-green algae have been reported in Florida’s many waterways including the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean and the St. Lucie River. Shorelines across the state are strewn with dead fish, manatees, dolphins and sea turtles that have fallen victim to the toxic substance. South Florida beachgoers have been cautioned to check with local hotlines and news outlets before heading to their beaches and yellow caution flags fly to alert people that the water is unsafe.

What are the symptoms of illness?

Exposure to the algae blooms have now been linked to illnesses in people in Florida—in fact, 15 residents have been hospitalized with symptoms ranging from nausea and vomiting to rashes, severe headaches, respiratory troubles and more. Swimming in the water when the blooms are present or accidentally ingesting infected water can not only lead to short-term illness but also liver failure and brain disease. In addition, inhalation of the fumes from the algae can lead to respiratory issues and research is showing that long-term inhalation is linked to Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Preventing exposure

Of course, the best way to avoid exposure to the algae is by staying clear of the beaches and waterways when the blooms are present. Pregnant women and small children are encouraged to refrain from going anywhere near the water when the blue-green algae are present and everyone should be aware of the warnings before swimming, wading, boating, fishing or participating in any activities in and around the water. If exposure is suspected, wash skin with soap and warm water and if any symptoms occur, including rash, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, sore throat, fever, asthma-like symptoms or severe headache, see the doctor immediately.

Each year people from all over the world head to Florida for fun-filled vacations in the Sunshine State, unfortunately, the algae blooms are putting a damper on everyone’s summer fun. For those who live in affected areas, the most important thing to do is to be aware of what’s going on and keep away from the water and beaches when the blooms are present.

For more health-related topics please visit our blog often. All Point Medical Waste is a family owned and operated company located in Stuart. We provide medical waste disposal services as well as onsite shredding and destruction services to customers throughout the Treasure Coast, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and Broward Counties. To learn more about what we do, give us a call at 772.600.4885.

Dawn Connelly

Dawn is the vice president of All Points Medical Waste. All Points Medical Waste is a family-owned and operated medical waste disposal and compliance company that has been serving the Treasure Coast, Palm Beaches, and surrounding areas since 1994.
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