I don’t know about you but I started to itch a little as soon as I saw the news from the Surfrider Foundation. Apparently, there are a handful of physical reactions that Surfrider and Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System (SCCOOS) believe may be linked to coming in contact with the Lingulodinium polyedra (L. polyedra), also known as red tide, that brought neon waves to Southern California for several weeks in April.
For the slew of people who took to the ocean to see (and sometimes surf) the six-week run of bioluminescent waves, as well as anybody who surfed its murky red daylight waters, everything from itchy eyes and skin rashes to notable respiratory problems reportedly started popping up in conjunction with exposure to the red tide bloom. And after enough anecdotal stories, Surfrider and SCCOOS organized a survey specifically for anyone who may have been in the water as far south as Tijuana to as far north as Ventura between March 30 and May 31, 2020.
“While L. polyedra is considered less toxic than some other red tide culprits, anecdotal reports suggest it may impact respiratory health and trigger skin rashes,” reads an email from the Surfrider Foundation. “With this in mind, the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System (SCCOOS) and researchers at UCSD Scripps Institution of Oceanography are collaborating with the Surfrider Foundation to collect community anecdotal information and data for inclusion in future publications and bulletins on symptoms experienced after exposure to an L. polyedra bloom.”
Specifically, the 10-question survey (available in both English and Spanish) seems to be focused most heavily on respiratory problems that had been reported (a big deal in today’s world), even though anecdotal symptoms in the SoCal region included eye and ear irritations and rashes, too. The organization points out that different algal blooms have different effects on the human body, and L. polyedra is considered less toxic than some other red tide culprits. Still, researching those effects gives experts a better overall understanding of algae’s impact on the human body.
“The more we can learn about each different types of species that make up various types of red tides, the better job we can do telling people about cautions during these red tides and blooms,” Surfrider’s Katie Day told the OC Register. “Surfrider always recommends staying out of the water during a red tide, because the results aren’t known. When in doubt, stay out of the water – even if it is really temping to go play in it.”
Editor’s Note: Learn more about Surfrider’s survey and participate here.