Red Tide: What Causes it & How Does it Affect Air Quality


If you live on the beach or if you are a frequent beach-goer than the chances are you will have experienced the horrible and rancid smell of red tide, along with the damaging effects it places on our beaches. The shores of the beach during red tide can be filled with dead fish that will flood the beach shore and release the potent odor that we associate with red tide. The red tide is a normal, seasonal occurrence in southwest Florida, but last year in August of 2018, Florida experienced a significant red tide where the tide claimed many victims, including at least a hundred manatees, a dozen dolphins, at least 300 sea turtles, and thousands of fish. The marine life, however, are not the only people affected by the red tide; it can also impact humans and their health, as the red tide can affect the air quality within the area and surrounding areas of the beaches.

What causes red tide, and how does this impact the overall air quality in the surrounding areas to these tainted beaches?

What is Red Tide?

Red tide is the devastating phenomenon that is caused by algal blooms where the algae becomes so magnified with so many produced that they discolor the coastal waters, which led to the term ‘red tide’. These algae blooms that are found in the water can have other significant impacts including depleting the oxygen within the water and releasing toxins into the water that can cause illness in both marine life and humans. The toxins produced from these tiny organisms produce a paralyzing neurotoxin that prevents fish and marine life from breathing. This toxin can also affect humans too as the toxin can become airborne and result in hazardous effects to the human respiratory system.

There are a number of different things that can affect the cause of an algal bloom to grow, such as low salinity, a high level of nutrient content in the water, and warmer temperature surface water.

How Long Does Red Tide Last

Red tide blooms can last for an unknown period of time, it could be days, weeks, or months. This will depend on the water conditions and the weather conditions. Sometimes red tides can stop and re-start shortly after, as there have been examples of this in prior years. In 2005, the coast of St. Petersburg, FL in January spread to the coast of Pensacola and Naples and persisted for the majority of the year. This long duration depends on both physical and biological conditions that influence whether it grows and persists – this includes sunlight, nutrients, salinity, and wind and water conditions.

How Does Red Tide Affect Humans

Red tide can have significant adverse health effects on humans upon exposure. Typically, exposure for humans to red tide occurs through eating contaminated seafood, particularly shellfish that contains the toxins produced from the red tide. However, the exposure to harmful algae from the red tide that can be hazardous to human health is through the air you breathe. The algae that is released during a red tide can emit toxins into the water that are than released into the air as a gas. This gas is called Hydrogen Sulfide, which is produced from blue-green algae along with other algae produced from the red tide. Hydrogen sulfide is a highly toxic gas that once formed will taint the air quality in the surrounding areas. When exposure to this toxic gas occurs and inhalation or ingestion of the chemical enters into the human body, it can significantly affect the health of those individuals exposed, particularly if these individuals suffer from allergies & asthma.

Red Tide & Asthma

During a red tide in your area, the toxins that are created throughout this process can aerosolize in the wind – allowing it to drift ashore and contaminate the air that many individuals breathe each day. The toxins and airborne contaminants that are emitted in the air from red tides has been proven to trigger and effect upper and lower respiratory tract systems and illicit irritation upon exposure to these toxins. For those who suffer from asthma and allergies, the release of these toxins in the air can be far worse for their health.

Asthmatic individuals are more likely to experience symptoms with red tide exposure. The symptoms that they can start to develop can include burning of the eyes, irritation of the throat, nasal congestion, sneezing, and coughing. A particularly severe symptom that an asthmatic person will experience will be a significant exacerbation which will require treatment of some sort to alleviate.

Red Tide Symptoms

The symptoms that can trigger the exposure to red tide and the toxins that they produce can vary from person to person. Symptoms will depend on the person’s current health, their age, and the amount of exposure to the red tide toxins. 

The red tide symptoms include the following:

  • Tickle in Throat
  • Asthmatic symptoms
  • Rashes
  • Skin irritation
  • Itchy, red eyes
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Brain fog
  • Fatigue

How Does Red Tide Affect Air Quality

The effects of red tide can span far and wide, from the waters to the air of the impacted areas. Red tide as we discussed, produces toxins into the water that can turn into a gas and become released into the air, which can have a significant effect on the air quality, and even the air quality within your home if you live close to the beaches. When inhalation or any form of exposure occurs with these toxic gases, the risks to human health and the environment can be severe. Also, the odors that are emitted from red tide, whether that be from the toxins that are emitted or from the dead fish that flood the beach shore, it can be a hard smell to eradicate from the air when it contaminates an indoor environment like a home.  The most effective and easiest method for eradication of both the toxins emitted and the odor from the red tide is by using an air purifier.

Air purifiers are devices that are designed to clean and mitigate the air of potentially hazardous airborne contaminants found within an indoor air space. These devices can vary, from the technology to the functions and toxins that they are able to remove from the air, and thus it is important to identify the best air purification device and technology for the specific chemicals or odors you are trying to remove from the indoor air.

The EnviroKlenz Air Purifier is the ideal air purifier for the removal of both noxious odors and toxic chemicals present within the air of a personal indoor environment. The EnviroKlenz patented earth mineral technology is relentless at removing particulate matter in the air like smoke, soot, pollen, noxious odors, and chemicals from the air. The technology is highly reactive against airborne contaminants as it comes into contact with the high-surface-area metal oxides within the EnviroKlenz filter. The EnviroKlenz Air Purifier is simple to use and highly effective, leaving you with truly clean air that is not compromised.

The EnviroKlenz Air Purifier has been tested against the major competing air purifiers against a variety of airborne contaminants to show the effectiveness of the EnviroKlenz technology at removing these contaminants versus or competitors.

Below is the testing that was conducted against the removal of Hydrogen Sulfide, a toxic chemical that is found with red tide and that affects the air quality.

In this chamber study, hydrogen sulfide was released in an environmental chamber under ambient conditions.  The various air systems and technologies were remotely controlled to not disturb the environment.  The EnviroKlenz Air Purifier rapidly reduced and neutralized the acidic gas from the air.  The IQAir system which utilizes a significant amount of an activated carbon did remove the H2S from the air, but since carbon is not reactive, there is the potential for the hydrogen sulfide to be released back to the atmosphere with changes in temperature, pressure, and or humidity levels.  The Blue Air purifier utilizes HEPA filtration and only some physical absorption of the acid gas on the HEPA filter was observed.  The MoleKule system did not rapidly remove the hydrogen sulfide and a bare carbon filter did not absorb or adsorb the acid gas.

The IQAir uses a carbon filter that contains well over 5 pounds of media.  The EnviroKlenz Air Cartridge is able to achieve the same results with less than ½ pound of media!

EnviroKlenz Air Systems

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