Toxic red tide causing burning eyes and respiratory distress in Florida

Toxic red tide causing burning eyes and respiratory distress in Florida

Toxic red tide algae have upended life on Florida's southwest coast this week, forcing the cancellation of an annual beach festival and causing some residents to suffer from breathing problems and red eyes, the Associated Press reports.

The bloom has been an ongoing issue for months, first turning up in October.

“Red tide is currently present on the beach and is forecasted to remain in the area in the weeks to come,” the Indian Rocks Beach Homeowners, the sponsors of the now-cancelled event said in a statement.

“It is unfortunate that it had to be canceled but it is the best decision in the interest of public health.”

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There have been reports of dead fish related to the tide in several Florida counties. Mandy Edmunds, a parks supervisor with St. Pete Beach city, told the Tampa Bay Times about 454 kilograms of fish had been cleared from the city's beach since the start of the month.

USF - algae map
USF - algae map

Statewide Red Tide Status Map on March 10, 2023 (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

What is a red tide?

Red tide events occur on coastlines when algae take over, posing a health risk to humans and wildlife. Overgrown algae cause the water to change red, green, or brown. Large blooms are associated with high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus, which can wind up in waterways from fertilizer runoff.

Related: Food poisoning from contaminated shellfish could be on the rise

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Thumbnail image: File photo of red tide in Florida (Canva/Getty Images Signature).