Scientist Calls Cyanobacteria Crisis “Florida’s Fukushima”

“We fear that South Florida may be the Fukushima of cyanobacterial exposure.” – Dr. Paul Cox



Let that sink in.

Last Thursday, Bullsugar and Friends of the Everglades teamed up with the Calusa Waterkeeper to premiere a screening of the documentary, “Troubled Waters,” to supporters in downtown Miami. The film features a discussion of the public health risks presented by Florida’s water crisis, with interviews from doctors and experts, as well as patients who have suffered from conditions that they believe may be tied to harmful algal blooms.

The expert panel of scientists and medical researchers that followed delivered grave and troubling warnings to the audience about the impacts of long-term exposure to cyanobacteria blooms on the people of Florida. 

Because of the pioneering efforts of researchers like the University of Miami’s Dr. Larry Brand and the Brain Chemistry Lab’s Dr. Paul Alan Cox, we already know that certain toxins are capable of biomagnifying up the food chain, and that this may point to a potentially chilling connection between exposure to toxic algae and an increased risk of neurological diseases. But we’ve barely scratched the surface of the dangers that might also be hidden in the air we breathe.

Dr. Brand put it this way: “Most people now know not to go swimming in this water and not to eat the seafood that comes from this water, but lots of people move to Florida to live next to the water… and you can’t help but breathe the air. We don’t know to what extent these toxins are getting into the air and how much of a health risk that is.”

When asked what message they’d give to policymakers if they could only tell them one thing, the panelists’ responses were frank, and reflected the need for urgency and responsibility by elected officials and state and federal agencies to act now in the face of blooms that are stronger than ever before. 

“The EPA is charged with protecting the health of citizens of the United States,” Dr. Cox said. “The CDC is charged with trying to discover the sources of disease. What I tell them is Get to South Florida now.” 

Dr. Cox was the most direct, comparing the budding human health crisis in Florida to the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, seen here in the video below. He takes care to remind us that restoring historic flows of freshwater through the Everglades is not only a natural source of nutrient filtration with ecological benefits for the system, but now may represent a critical health interest to the citizens of this state.

There are ways for Bullsugar supporters to help. Right now, the CDC is targeting Florida for a study that would attempt to identify the health risks posed by harmful algal blooms once they enter the air. They are collecting public comments until November 18th on a proposed study that would examine exposure and health effects of aerosols from cyanobacterial blooms on highly exposed populations during the next active bloom season. It is crucial that we remain involved in this process as a collective community.

Comments on the study are being accepted until November 18th and can be submitted one of two ways:

  • OnlineFederal eRulemaking portal:

  • By mail: Addressed to Jeffrey M. Zirger, Information Collection Review Office, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road NE, MS-D74, Atlanta, Georgia, 30329

All submissions received must include the agency name (CDC) and docket number (CDC-2019-0079).