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Local researchers do algae bloom study on volunteers

FORT PIERCE, Fla. —

Researchers on the Treasure Coast are working on a study to help them determine the health risks on humans from harmful algae bloom exposure.

Adam Schaefer, an epidemiologist with FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce, said the study is a collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FAU.

"Our goal is to understand what concentrations in the environment that are directly related to the development of symptoms in humans," Schaefer said.

The study involves collecting biological samples from people who are from the coastal communities where harmful algae blooms are found.

Schaefer said participants agree to give a blood and urine sample, as well as a nasal swab.

He said once the information is collected, researchers will measure algae bloom toxin concentrations in each person.

"What are their symptoms, how are those related to exposure and again, ultimately try to develop more specific guidelines for exposure risks. But there are so many data gaps and so much we still don't understand right now," Schaefer said.

He said so far, researchers have collected samples from 20 volunteers, but he adds that to get the best answers, they need a larger sample size.

Schaefer said they are hoping people will help by donating through the FAU Springboard page on their website.

"There's a lot of great groups doing some work that we are all looking to integrate and answer some important questions that we need to know about the algal blooms and human health," Schaefer said.