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Protect public health: Demand cyanotoxin standards

By Staff | Nov 19, 2019


Every three years, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection reviews its water quality standards. In the spring, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation met with staff to ask that they establish standards for cyanotoxins in response to the devastating water crisis we suffered in 2018. They indicated that was not anticipated in this three-year review. So in May, we partnered with the Center for Biological Diversity and Calusa Waterkeeper to file a petition with the DEP asking them to establish cyanotoxin standards for recreational water exposure in this three-year review.

In June, the DEP granted our petition saying it will consider adopting criteria for two cyanotoxins: microcystins and cylindrospermopsin.

In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency issued draft recommended values of 4 micrograms per liter for microcystins and 8 micrograms per liter for cylindrospermopsin. In 2019, the EPA issued a final recommendation of 8 micrograms per liter for microcystins and 15 micrograms per liter for cylindrospermopsin, doubling the 2016 levels. These higher exposure levels were based on a limited study of children’s exposure from ingesting pool water and measuring the chlorine in their system. The study did not consider the additional multiple pathways of exposure to cyanotoxins including inhalation, dermal exposure and consuming contaminated fish or shellfish. It assumes all cyanotoxin exposure is from ingestion.

In his executive order addressing water quality, Gov. Ron DeSantis established the Florida Blue-Green Algae Task Force “to aid the Department of Environmental Protection in fulfilling its mission to protect, conserve and manage the state’s natural resources and enforce its environmental laws.” The scientists the governor appointed to the task force have urged the state to take immediate action and not to wait on additional research before establishing water quality criteria for cyanotoxins.

Given the critical health concerns associated with cyanotoxins, the state must adequately protect people from both the short-term and long-term effects.

Rae Ann Wessel

Please join us in writing to the DEP asking them to set protective health exposure standards of 4 micrograms per liter for microcystins and 8 micrograms per liter for cylindrospermopsin. To do so, visit p2a.co/ehuwmGV.

Rae Ann Wessel is the natural resources policy director for the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. For more information about the SCCF, visit www.sccf.org.