Algae proliferation keeps bathers away from beaches on the Brazilian coast
Natural phenomena surprised and drove away bathers on Brazilian beaches in recent days. Hundreds even showed symptoms of poisoning.
Reports of something strange at sea began last weekend in Pernambuco. At Maracaípe Beach, just over 200 km south of Recife, bathers showed symptoms of poisoning. One person was hospitalized.
A little further south, in Tamandaré, the local hospital received 278 cases of people reporting headache, malaise, body pain and irritation in different parts of the body. According to doctors, signs of intoxication.
Technicians from the State Environment Agency collected, this Thursday (1st) and this Friday (2nd), samples in several points on the south coast, but the cases had already decreased; so much so that the preliminary analysis did not identify a different color or odor of the water.
“It’s something like this that could actually be a bloom, what is popularly known as red tide, of some microalgae, which we haven’t been able to determine yet. This mass that remains in the water is at the mercy of the currents, the direction winds. It’s very likely that this material will spread, right?”, explains Andrea Xavier, manager of the CPRH laboratory.
Two days ago, about 150 km to the south, a video recorded from a viewpoint on the north coast of Alagoas also showed the reddish water. On that day, tourist Eliane Araújo entered the sea and soon began to notice some symptoms.
“I started sneezing and there were people already coughing and sneezing. I sat up almost the whole night due to lack of air”, he recalls.
Mr. Antônio Rocha had similar symptoms.
“I had a very high fever and difficulty breathing too, a lot of pain in my body”, he says.
The Municipal Health Department reported that, In less than 24 hours, almost 300 people sought medical care in a health unit. They all reported that they took a bath at the beach known as Carro Quebrado, in the municipality of Barra de Santo Antônio.
The beach was closed for two days. ICMBio and the Alagoas Environmental Institute collected material to confirm whether reddish-colored algae were responsible for the health problems.
Oceanographer Gabriel Le Campion explained that the phenomenon is called Red tide, when there is an increase in the amount of microalgae of this color or in orange tones, and many of these algae end up releasing very toxic substances. According to Gabriel, the Red algae proliferation phenomenon occurs because of climatic factors.
“It depends a lot on climatic and nutritional variations – the presence of certain types of nutrients – so that they can multiply and produce a phenomenon of this nature. Because some of them – not all, they have several types of toxins – can pass into the air through the spray of the waves, and you breathe it,” he states.
“This phenomenon happens due to local climatic and oceanographic characteristics. In other words, we have resurgence, which is an entry of water full of nutrients. The algae will take advantage of these nutrients to be able to reproduce and they also need the sun and of hot water. All of these are factors that will provide this great reproduction of algae. And when these algae go to the beach, they die”, explains biologist Bruno Masi.
As algae, even dead, serve as food for other species, the City Council cannot collect the material. It will take patience.
“I just came walking and thinking: wow, nature is going to take a while to clean up. Not even the City Hall will be able to do anything, because it’s a transgression for us to also want to do this cleaning. So the only way is for us to wait”, highlights boatman Denis Silverio.