Mote conducting red tide air quality testing

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SARASOTA- With red tide still persistent in the Gulf of Mexico, researchers are trying to find out as much as they can about it.

“We’ve had a lot of people complaining,” Dr. Pierce said. “Of the choking irritation of Red Tide Toxins inland, so the Department of health was concerned about what people might be exposed to.”

The health department is paying for the close to 35 thousand dollar for an air quality study.

“In essence it’s a glorified vacuum cleaner that pulls air through a filter,” Dr. Pierce said. “The aerosolized toxins are actually small particles primarily associated with sea salt so their large enough to be collected.”

The filters are then put through chemical testing.

“Essentially just having a sheet that sucks in whatever is in the air,” Marguerite Kinsella said. “So we want to see what’s in the air, what’s in the water and the correlation to each other.”

Samples will be collected at different times throughout the day.

“We’re going to do 8AM, 1PM, and 6PM,” Kinsella said. “So kind of a nice interval to see if there is more potential toxins in the morning, afternoon or evening.”

They have 11 testing sites at Mote, on the beaches and farther inland.

“We have then others at fire stations,” Dr. Pierce said. “The fire department has been very helpful with us, we felt that would be a good place for security for our 24 hours a day sampling.”

The study is similar to one conducted between 2003 and 2006.

“At that point we did about 1 to 2 miles inland transect,” Dr. Pierce said. “This time we’re going as far as about 7 miles inland.”

Dr. Pierce says this should give researchers a better idea of how far the toxins are really traveling.

“A lot of people smell the dead fish,” Dr. Pierce said. “And the decomposing micro-algae and they think that that’s the red tide smell and it’s not.”

Samples will be collected over the course of a week, but some testing days could be postponed due to potential effects of Hurricane Michael.

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