Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

As Red Tide Returns, Buchanan Urges Congress to Act

Oct 21, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – With red tide resurfacing in Sarasota and Manatee counties, Congressman Vern Buchanan today called on U.S. Senate leaders to pass his measure to study the threat posed to human health.

In a letter sent today to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, Buchanan called for swift passage of his plan.

“We need to know how much of a threat red tide is to human health,” Buchanan said. “We know of the temporary physical discomfort it causes but we don’t know much beyond that. Now we need to find out if exposure presents a long-term threat to human health.”

In June, the U.S. House passed Buchanan's amendment to instruct 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 as part of a sweeping government funding bill. As the Senate continues to work through its own version of a spending bill, Buchanan is urging Senate leaders to include his legislation. 

According to a recent report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the organism causing red tide has resurfaced at low levels in both Sarasota and Manatee waters.  

Buchanan has long led efforts in Congress to combat red tide. 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.

 

Letter text below:

Majority Leader McConnell and Chairman Shelby,

I write today urging you to adopt House-passed language that prioritizes funding for a study into the long-term health threat posed by red tide and other harmful algal blooms.

These Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) are occurring with increasing frequency and severity across the country. We know of the temporary physical discomfort the toxic bacteria causes, but we don’t know much beyond that. We need to find out if exposure presents a long-term threat to human health.

While short-term effects of red tide are well-documented, USA Today points out that “long-term data is scarce, a fact that is worrisome for scientists who study the organisms and doctors who are seeing patients ill from the blooms.”

As you continue your work on funding the government for fiscal year 2020, I respectfully ask that you include language from my U.S. House passed amendment to prioritize research on the long-term health effects of red tide. Specifically, my amendment instructs the National Institute of Environment Health Sciences (NIEHS) to designate $6.25 million to research the long-term health effects of red tide and other Harmful Algal Blooms.

This issue is of particular concern in my home state of Florida which suffered one of the worst bouts of red tide in the state’s history last year. The bloom, which finally dissipated this past February, had plagued the coast for more than 15 months. And now red tide blooms have resurfaced in my own backyard off the coasts of Manatee, Sarasota, Collier and Lee counties.

People can become ill with Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning (NSP) or even die as a result of consuming contaminated shellfish that has been exposed to HAB toxins. People who swim in red tide while near the water can also suffer from severe respiratory issues, skin irritation and rashes. 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 the water.

HABs are a growing national concern because of the widespread and lasting damage they cause not only to marine life and coastal ecosystems, but to our local economies as well. In fact, due to its impacts on public health, tourism, seafood and other related industries, HABs occurring in U.S. marine waters are estimated to cost the U.S. over $80 million a year.

And while we have some information on the impact of red tide, scientists and researchers still do not know the full extent of red tide’s harmful effects on human health. It is vital that we dedicate funding to discover how much of a threat red tide is to human health.

Thank you for your consideration of this request, and for your attention to the issue.