This week, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., praised the Roskamp Institute in Sarasota for winning a federal grant to study the possible connection between exposure to red tide and neurological disorders in humans.
“Roskamp is one of the leading scientific research institutes in the nation and I’m thrilled they were able to secure funding to conduct this important review,” said Buchanan on Wednesday. “People need to know if exposure causes long-term damage. This grant of more than $400,000 will allow Roskamp to determine if human exposure to the red tide neurotoxin called brevetoxin causes brain impairment or other problems.”
In particular, the institute will study why some people have mild reactions to red tide while others react more severely.
Dr. Mike Mullan, Roskamp’s executive director, weighed in on the study.
“When you see metric tons of marine life being killed in a few weeks you realize how powerful the toxin is, and knowing that some of the effects of exposure can be long-lasting in other species, it makes sense to make sure that something similar is not happening in the human population, particularly in vulnerable populations,” Mullan said. “We want to thank Congressman Buchanan for his tremendous leadership on combating and researching red tide.”
Buchanan’s proposal to increase funding for red tide research by $8 million was signed into law in 2018. Buchanan also backed a proposal that was signed by President Trump to provide more than $100 million to combat Harmful Algal Blooms such as red tide.
Last year, the U.S. House overwhelmingly approved Buchanan’s measure to study the impact of red tide on human health. Buchanan’s amendment instructs the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to designate $6.25 million to research the long-term health effects of red tide and other Harmful Algal Blooms.
In 2018 Florida suffered one of the five worst bouts of red tide in the state’s history. The bloom, which finally dissipated in February 2019, had plagued the coast for more than 15 months. Southwest Florida is uniquely vulnerable to red tide, as it has seen this type of algae bloom occur more than twice as often as any other area in the state.
Red tide is a toxin-producing algae that killed thousands of fish and affected tourism in the Suncoast region. In 2018 alone, the algae killed hundreds of dolphins and manatees as well as thousands other marine animals. Thousands of tons of dead marine life washed ashore local beaches, causing significant hardship on both local residents and county governments.