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Red tide noxious for asthmatics

Jan 10, 2007

SARASOTA, FL, United States (UPI) -- The 'red tide' algae bloom off Florida`s coast can exacerbate symptoms in asthma sufferers on nearby beaches, researchers say.

The blooms, which concentrate on Florida`s shorelines one a year, produce airborne toxins called brevetoxins, said The toxins get into the air after leaking into the water from ruptured algal cells.

Beach visitors reported dry coughs and teary eyes during red tides. The toxins could have serious effects on the breathing of asthma sufferers, says Barbara Kirkpatrick of the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla.

Kirkpatrick`s team tested symptoms of 97 asthma sufferers after an hour on a beach in Sarasota, when the red tide was in full bloom and when it was not.

When exposed to the toxins, the participants experienced an increase in asthmatic symptoms, mainly chest tightness, says Kirkpatrick. During walks with no exposure, there were no symptom changes.

When participants blew into a spirometer, which tests lung capacity, their performance also dropped significantly during red tides.

'People who have asthma need to be aware of the red tides, and plan their outdoor activities accordingly,' she said. 'We now have the scientific data that confirms anecdotal reports from the local community.'

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