Changes in work habits of lifeguards in relation to Florida red tide

Kate Nierenberg, Karen Kirner, Porter Hoagland, Steven Ullmann, William G. LeBlanc, Gary Kirkpatrick, Lora E. Fleming, Barbara Kirkpatrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The marine dinoflagellate, Karenia brevis, is responsible for Florida red tides. Brevetoxins, the neurotoxins produced by K. brevis blooms, can cause fish kills, contaminate shellfish, and lead to respiratory illness in humans. Although several studies have assessed different economic impacts from Florida red tide blooms, no studies to date have considered the impact on beach lifeguard work performance. Sarasota County experiences frequent Florida red tides and staffs lifeguards at its beaches 365 days a year. This study examined lifeguard attendance records during the time periods of March 1 to September 30 in 2004 (no bloom) and March 1 to September 30 in 2005 (bloom). The lifeguard attendance data demonstrated statistically significant absenteeism during a Florida red tide bloom. The potential economic costs resulting from red tide blooms were comprised of both lifeguard absenteeism and presenteeism. Our estimate of the costs of absenteeism due to the 2005 red tide in Sarasota County is about $3000. On average, the capitalized costs of lifeguard absenteeism in Sarasota County may be on the order of $100,000 at Sarasota County beaches alone. When surveyed, lifeguards reported not only that they experienced adverse health effects of exposure to Florida red tide but also that their attentiveness and abilities to take preventative actions decrease when they worked during a bloom, implying presenteeism effects. The costs of presenteeism, which imply increased risks to beachgoers, arguably could exceed those of absenteeism by an order of magnitude. Due to the lack of data, however, we are unable to provide credible estimates of the costs of presenteeism or the potential increased risks to bathers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)419-425
Number of pages7
JournalHarmful Algae
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2010


  • Absenteeism
  • Florida red tide
  • K. brevis
  • Lifeguard work habits
  • Presenteeism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Plant Science


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