Congress recently approved $6.25 million to study how red tide algae blooms affect people's health. Multiple facilities in Sarasota will work together on the research.
Right now, physicians and scientists only know that red tide causes people to cough and makes their eyes water, but Mote Marine Laboratory, the Roskamp Institute and Sarasota Memorial Hospital are teaming up to learn more.
"For example, for my asthma patients, or my elderly patients with emphysema, COPD-- how are they affected by red tide?" asked Kirk Voelker, a lung doctor and clinical researcher at Sarasota Memorial.
"I know that I get a lot more people who come into my office during an outbreak of red tide with respiratory complaints."
The project is still being designed, but the plan is to test the blood of people who live or work on the coast and inland, both during red tide outbreaks and when the coast is clear.
They're looking for short term and possible long term effects of exposure.
"It's something that needs to be looked at because community physicians have theories that red tide may lead to some illnesses and that question needs to be answered," said Voelker.