The environmental and economic impacts of the red tide attack have been all over the news. But the scope of the health impacts to people living near the beaches has been greatly swept under the rug.
Here’s a firsthand account of how detrimental red tide can really be:
On September 19th (my 38th birthday), I woke up feeling itchy and strange. I had spent the previous day in Manatee County, an area hit hard with the red tide.
In Manatee County, the air smelled putrid and I experienced occasional coughing fits. By the next morning my nostrils were inflamed, and my skin was irritated and splotchy. Just a few hours later, my face, neck, and arms were covered in hive-like, painful bumps. And just as I was about to leave the office, I had a spontaneous nosebleed (which never happens to me). Was I falling apart now that I’d hit the big 3-8? Had my body just given in to its inevitable aging and demise?
Of course not. My body was not responding to simply being another day older; it was responding to my prolonged exposure to the red tide neurotoxins. These airborne toxins can cause just as many health impacts as the sludgy water that they come from.
I've lived on the beach for 38 years and have never experienced a red tide outbreak like this. Unfortunately, we have a two fold toxic attack currently in progress. The toxic blue-green algae from Lake Okeechobee is being discharged into the Gulf of Mexico via the Caloosahatchee River supercharging the red tide with its nitrogen runoff.
And just to be clear - this naturally occurring phenomenon of algae patterns has turned into a toxic nightmare because over the past eight years in office, Governor Rick Scott has systematically destroyed protections for our waters and environment. He’s refused to enforce the Clean Water Act. He’s ignored the Water and Land Conservation Initiative. He’s chosen to snuggle up to destructive campaign contributing industries, while literally leaving Florida in a muck. And to add insult to injury, he evades events where there are protesters and refuses to answer simple questions from his constituents.
I recently had the opportunity to meet Gov. Scott at a campaign event. When I asked him about his environmental rollbacks, he transformed from a seemingly kind demeanor to physically shoo me away to a campaign staffer (his travel aide) while saying "I think we're doing a good job." Are toxic waters, record levels of dead sea life and destruction to our tourism-based economy a "good job"?
Gov. Scott has forgotten who his employer is: Floridians like us. And we will certainly not be giving him a “good job” on his employee review.
Since he refuses to be held accountable for what he has done, we need to spread that word that we are -literally- sick of Red Tide Rick’s destructive environmental policies.