U.S. House approves $6.25 million to help red tide research

Red tide health research

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Nearly one year after red tide hammered the Suncoast, the U.S. House of Representatives voted this week to fund research that could possibly save lives.

“As you know, Florida suffered from one of the longest and most devastating bouts of red tide in the state’s history,” said Representative Vern Buchanan, while speaking on the House floor on Thursday.

This was to send a message about the need for more red tide research.

“The short term impacts are well documented, the beach goers and swimmers suffered from severe respiratory issues. Skin irritation and rashes the long-term effects of exposure to red tide are largely unknown,” he said.

The House voted 401-23 in favor of funding $6.25 million to research the long term effects of red tide and other algae blooms on people and their health. This amendment, which is part of a broader spending bill, instructs the National Institutes of Health to spend the money on research.

“We did get a lot of phone calls from people asking questions of the symptoms they were having and steps they can take if they were exposed,” said Michael Drennon, Disease Intervention Services Program Manager for the Florida Health Department in Sarasota.

He says they only know of the short-term impacts red tide caused since last year.

“With asthma, or other respiratory issues, those symptoms can be more severe, difficulty breathing, coughing , and things of that nature,” he said.

And with what’s known, they were able to help out those who were exposed to the toxins.

“Our general advise is if people are exposed to the toxins to go indoors to air-conditioned air. For most people that’s going to alleviate the symptoms and reduce any exposure to the toxin,” he said.

But he agrees more in-depth research is needed, to see if there are long-term effects connected to red tide.

“We know it can exacerbate symptoms to people with chronic disease, issues like asthma, there’s more research to be done,” he said.

Mote Marine Laboratory provided ABC 7 with a statement on this decision:

“We applaud Rep. Vern Buchanan’s efforts to secure funding for essential, next-level research into the effects of red tide on human health. The proposed funding to be designated by the National Institutes of Health is vital to the diverse research community that continues to tackle this important issue. Mote Marine Laboratory, an independent scientific institution with a long history of studying red tide and its effects on humans, marine animals and the environment, looks forward to new opportunities to engage with the National Institute of Health on this critical issue for public health and quality of life. “

The final passage of this funding package is expected next week.

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