Occupational exposure to aerosolized brevetoxins during Florida red tide events: Effects on a healthy worker population

Lorraine C. Backer, Barbara Kirkpatrick, Lora E Fleming, Yung Sung Cheng, Richard Pierce, Judy A. Bean, Richard Clark, David Johnson, Adam Wanner, Robert Tamer, Yue Zhou, Daniel G. Baden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


Karenia brevis (formerly Gymnodinium breve) is a marine dinoflagellate responsible for red tides that form in the Gulf of Mexico. K. brevis produces brevetoxins, the potent toxins that cause neurotoxic shellfish poisoning. There is also limited information describing human health effects from environmental exposures to brevetoxins. Our objective was to examine the impact of inhaling aerosolized brevetoxins during red tide events on self-reported symptoms and pulmonary function. We recruited a group of 28 healthy lifeguards who are occupationally exposed to red tide toxins during their daily work-related activities. They performed spirometry tests and reported symptoms before and after their 8-hr shifts during a time when there was no red tide (unexposed period) and again when there was a red tide (exposed period). We also examined how mild exercise affected the reported symptoms and spirometry tests during unexposed and exposed periods with a subgroup of the same lifeguards. Environmental sampling (K. brevis cell concentrations in seawater and brevetoxin concentrations in seawater and air) was used to confirm unexposed/exposed status. Compared with unexposed periods, the group of lifeguards reported more upper respiratory symptoms during the exposed periods. We did not observe any impact of exposure to aerosolized brevetoxins, with or without mild exercise, on pulmonary function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)644-649
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2005


  • Aerosol
  • Brevetoxins
  • Karenia brevis
  • Lifeguards
  • Pulmonary function
  • Red tide
  • Spirometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Occupational exposure to aerosolized brevetoxins during Florida red tide events: Effects on a healthy worker population'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this