Personal exposure to aerosolized red tide toxins (brevetoxins)

J Occup Environ Hyg. 2010 Jun;7(6):326-31. doi: 10.1080/15459621003724041.


Florida red tides occur annually in the Gulf of Mexico from blooms of the marine dinoflagellate, Karenia brevis, which produces highly potent natural polyether toxins, brevetoxins. Several epidemiologic studies have demonstrated that human exposure to red tide aerosol could result in increased respiratory symptoms. Environmental monitoring of aerosolized brevetoxins was performed using a high-volume sampler taken hourly at fixed locations on Siesta Beach, Florida. Personal exposure was monitored using personal air samplers and taking nasal swab samples from the subjects who were instructed to spend 1 hr on Sarasota Beach during two sampling periods of an active Florida red tide event in March 2005, and in May 2008 when there was no red tide. Results showed that the aerosolized brevetoxins from the personal sampler were in modest agreement with the environmental concentration taken from a high-volume sampler. Analysis of nasal swab samples for brevetoxins demonstrated 68% positive samples in the March 2005 sampling period when air concentrations of brevetoxins were between 50 to 120 ng/m(3) measured with the high-volume sampler. No swab samples showed detectable levels of brevetoxins in the May 2008 study, when all personal samples were below the limit of detection. However, there were no statistical correlations between the amounts of brevetoxins detected in the swab samples with either the environmental or personal concentration. Results showed that the personal sample might provide an estimate of individual exposure level. Nasal swab samples showed that brevetoxins indeed were inhaled and deposited in the nasal passage during the March 2005 red tide event.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols / analysis
  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Florida
  • Harmful Algal Bloom
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure / analysis*
  • Marine Toxins / analysis*
  • Nasal Cavity*
  • Oxocins / analysis*


  • Aerosols
  • Air Pollutants
  • Marine Toxins
  • Oxocins
  • brevetoxin