Many people may think of algae as green slime beneath their feet as they swim in a lake or the ocean. But what happens when small bits of algae, broken up by wind and waves, are swept into the air?
Harmful algae can cause serious health issues in people working and living along coastlines. Such health problems include respiratory distress, allergies, and skin irritation. Blue-green algae, known as cyanobacteria, even release neurotoxins such as β-Methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) into the air. BMAA and similar toxins released are associated with Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases—those that have the potential to degrade or even consume parts of the brain.
Mickey Rogers, a 2022 Linus Pauling Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) studies how algae are released into the atmosphere, how their composition changes once airborne, and how they affect the climate and human health.
For more information on Rogers’ research, check out the full feature article.