Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan, Health Experts Discuss Long-term Effects of Red Tide

Jul 22, 2019
Press Release
Congressman's Measure Secures Critical Research Funding.Prolonged Exposure to Neurotoxins Needs Further Study, Experts Say


SARASOTA, Fla -  Medical specialists and researchers today expressed strong support for Congressman Vern Buchanan’s measure to study the long-term impact of red tide on human health.

At a press conference at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, the group praised a Buchanan amendment passed by the U.S. House last month instructing the National Institutes of Health to designate $6.25 million to research the long-term health effects of red tide and other Harmful Algal Blooms on humans.

Buchanan was joined by Dr. Kirk Voelker, a pulmonologist/critical care specialist and medical director of clinical research at Sarasota Memorial Hospital; Michael Mullan, executive director of the Roskamp Institute; Dr. Michael P. Crosby, president & CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory.

“It is critical that we know the long-term impacts of red-tide on human health,” Buchanan said. “I’ve asked our local experts to provide us with the science and I’ll work on getting them the funding.”

Michael Mullan stated, “We know the neurotoxins released by Red Tide can cause inflammation in many animal species and in humans but we do not know whether there are any long term consequences to human health (including brain health) from Red Tide neurotoxin exposure. Our residents will greatly benefit from studies that address this important question. We appreciate Congressman Buchanan’s leadership on this important issue.”

Dr. Crosby stated, “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.” 

Dr. Charles Klucka, an allergist with offices in Fort Myers and Punta Gorda, reported a more than 20 percent increase in patients suffering from breathing issues last summer compared to previous years. He cited red tide as the reason for the increase and expressed concern about the lack of research on long-term exposure stating, “For people that live exposed months and months, we don’t know the long-term effects.”

In one local case last year, a pregnant Siesta Key woman was suffering from health ailments and was forced to relocate from her home near red tide.                          

Calls to the Florida Poison Control Center due to red tide more than tripled from 2017 to 2018. The Florida health department even advises that people with severe or chronic respiratory conditions like asthma are especially vulnerable and should steer clear of red tide waters.

Earlier this month, Buchanan toured the Robinson Preserve in Manatee County to monitor the blooms impacting the area. In 2018, a Buchanan proposal to increase funding for red tide research by $8 million was signed into law.

In February, Buchanan chaired a hearing on some of the most pressing water quality issues affecting the Sunshine State. Last year, 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.