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How Red Tide Affects Your Waterfront Property

by Scott Myers

For the past few months, red tide along the coast of Florida has been a huge item of concern in the news—and for good reason. From political impact to tourism impact to health concerns, red tide carries with it a variety of issues.

If you're a home or a business owner along the coast, you've no doubt been following the red tide influx this year. What does it mean for you and your property? What do you need to do to keep your family, property, and pets safe?

First of All, What is Red Tide?

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Red tide is a phenomenon that's been recorded as far back as the 1700s. Though there are "red tides" found all over the world, the algae responsible for Florida's red tides is concentrated almost exclusively in the Gulf of Mexico. That means coastal regions in Florida bear the main brunt of these red tide attacks.
Called Karenia brevis, or K. Brevis, the microscopic algae that compose red tide can—true to the name— give water a reddish or brownish color. The tides, which can last anywhere from weeks to more than a year, are known to possess potent toxins.
Brevis produces brevetoxins that attack marine animals' nervous systems. This is what causes fish and other marine animals to die in response to red tide. And when the algae is broken open by wave action, it can spread those toxins into the air and cause respiratory distress in humans.

What Does This Mean For Your Waterfront Property?

Though there's no need to panic, it's important to stay informed in the midst of a red tide influx. Here are some things to keep in mind. It can cause respiratory distress in humans and animals. 
As aforementioned, when K. Brevis is split open it can release toxins into the air that are linked to respiratory distress in humans. If you live on a waterfront property and algae is washing up and decomposing on the shore near your home, it's releasing those chemicals into the air.
For those living further inland, this isn't such a significant problem. However, it's especially dangerous for those who live or work on or near the shore. In fact, one study found that a group of lifeguards who were not asthmatic before exposure to red tide had symptoms of asthma eight hours after working during an active red tide.
The Florida Department of Health recommends wearing shoes when walking along the shoreline, avoiding swimming near dead fish caused by red tide, and keep tabs on the wind. When the wind is blowing offshore, fewer toxin particles are airborne. If you live right on the water and red tide is washing up, they recommend closing your windows and running the air conditioner.

It's Unsightly and Unattractive

In addition to it being dangerous to inhale, red tide is extraordinarily unattractive. It turns water a brackish, reddish color in many cases, and the algae retains that rusty color when they wash up on shore. If it's allowed to pile up on your waterfront property, it is extremely unsightly. As the algae deteriorates, it can spread even more toxins through opening up, and generally just act as an eyesore on your property.

Also, it's not just the algae that can wash ashore. Because of its dangerous brevetoxin, red tide is known to wash ashore with dead fish and marine animals. Although it hasn't been confirmed, a 26-foot-long whale shark recently washed up on shore dead, potentially due to contact with red tide.

If red tide washed up on your property, exercise extreme caution. The bones of dead fish can cause puncture wounds if you are not careful. The red tide can be extremely deleterious to any plants or greenery growing on your property. And its known to be a hazard for pets as well; if your property has been impacted by red tide, don't allow pets to eat the toxic dead fish.

What Can You Do to Fight Back?

Unfortunately, scientists are still working on a way to mitigate the effects of red tide. In the meantime, as red tide continues to attack coastal communities along the gulf of Mexico, it's important to exercise extra caution. Those with respiratory issues should be especially cautious. Never try to handle washed-up red tide or dead fish yourself.

A seawall can provide extra protection against red tide by preventing the toxic water and algae from leaking onto your property. A seawall is specially designed by experts to make sure that floodwaters won't reach your property, especially in the case of a massive environmental issue. Make sure that your seawalls are sturdy, up-to-date, and reinforced with strong materials to provide your family and property the best protection available.

Red tide is a serious issue with massive environmental and health implications. Make sure that you prioritize safety when it comes to red tide and protect your property from its influx. To speak to professionals about how to protect your property from the elements, reach out to us today.

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