Troubled Waters: The New Toxicity with Hurricanes

Hurricanes have been a fact of life in Florida for as long as anyone can remember…and thousands of years before.  Yes, we know the scientists are saying “the earth is heating up”, causing not just more storms but also more severe storms.  But there is something relatively “new” on the scene that’s causing death and destruction of sea life of all kinds.  Scientists are now telling us there is evidence suggesting that this destructive, toxic substance is also associated with human illnesses including cancer, serious respiratory ailments which can lead to death… and it is also a neurotoxin being associated as a cause of brain diseases such as ALS, Alzheimers’ and Parkinsons’.  BTW, the neurological problems are not just happening with humans, but apparently the Florida cougars too, according to one recent news report.

What do these two things have in common—hurricanes, and this “new” toxicity?  Well, the electric-green cocktail of cyanobacteria which killed thousands of sea creatures in the summer of 2018 sits quietly and dangerously ready to wreak its havoc once again.  The problem is NOT solved.  It’s just got a band aid on it, and that band aid could pop off any moment when a hurricane comes along, stirring up latent, on-the-bottom bacteria and washing more nitrogen and phosphorous into the water to feed them. Too much water may cause up to 6000 gallons of water per second to be released into waterways, unleashing a dangerous and terrible situation.


Many of you may be saying…“WHAT??  I thought we were just lucky this year, that the horrific 2018 summer season of toxic green algae was somehow solved, or it just wasn’t bad enough to be a problem this summer!” 


NOT SO FAST with that assumption.  The danger is quite real that any hurricane…the current one or another one…will help spread that nasty toxic stuff once again.  Lake Okeechobee has a pile of it.  Want to know the full story and how to protect yourself and the other creatures?  Keep reading.




In 2018 (and previous years), Lake Okeechobee, already fairly full and ripe with toxic algal blooms, filled to the top quickly with the early summer rains, and the floodgates to the west (Caloosahatchee River) and to the east (St. Lucie Canal) were opened, spewing out the toxic concoction to both coasts.  At that point, all anyone could do was watch the tragedy unfold.  The sights and smells along our beaches and canals is now legendary. The cleanup of thousands of dead fish, turtles of all kinds including 150 year-old Ridley Turtles, sea birds, manatee, dolphins and everything else was, to put it mildly, shocking to everyone.  So this year, what happened?  Why didn’t we see this problem in 2019?


The year 2019 ushered in a new Governor for the State of Florida, and his administration quickly demonstrated a pragmatic grasp of the situation.  One of Governor Ron DeSantis’s early acts (in February) was to FIRE the entire South Florida Water Management District Board which had done nothing to solve the problem of the summertime toxic cauldron that is Lake “O”. He appointed a group of environmentalists in their place.  The new Board promptly went to work, insistent on–and finding–a way to persuade the Army Corps of Engineers, who are in charge of management of Lake “O”, to drain much of the lake water during the dry season.  This is not so good in the tourist-heavy wintertime for boating and fishing or a pretty-looking lake.  However, by draining the water early, the lake had room to store the heavy rains that come in the summertime, during the height of the toxic bloom.  This is a brilliant, temporary solution.  This is why SWFL in 2019 hasn’t been the disaster area it was in 2018.  BUT A HURRICANE CAN CHANGE ALL THAT!



This is a huge topic, and it all starts with understanding the nature of the problem.  I will not get into all of the possibilities for its cause, but suffice it to say that the sugar cane industry is a major contributor.  It uses the water for its cane fields where it also applies fertilizers and chemicals—two especially which fuel the toxic algal problem (nitrogen and phosphorus). Then, adding great


Regarding health effects, here is a quote from the website:

“Cyanobacteria is one of the oldest types of lifeforms on Earth and is found primarily in freshwater systems. There are thousands of species of cyanobacteria and many are known to produce a variety of toxins. 

Cyanobacteria is a photosynthetic microorganism that processes sunlight, nitrogen and phosphorous to live. They can regulate their position in the water column for optimal light and thrive in warm, nutrient-rich fresh or brackish water with low turbulence.

Microcystis and Anabaena are two of the most common cyanobacteria found in estuarine systems today. These bacteria are known to produce cyanotoxins dangerous to humans and animals. Microcystin and Anatoxin are classes of hepatoxin and neurotoxin, affecting the liver and brain, respectively. 

Human and animal exposure to Cyantoxins comes in three primary forms of contact:

  1. Dermal contact
  2. Inhalation or aspiration from aerosolized surface water
  3. Ingestion”



Why am I writing about this topic now?  In short, I was greatly inspired after attending a meeting run by the Calusa Waterkeeper, a conservation group focused on protecting our waters in southwest Florida.  This is a well-run, reasonably-funded (it needs more), dedicated group of people who are behind the science and education of industry, health care, and our government leaders regarding this toxic bloom situation.  Oh, and BTW, they now also have a fantastic legal professional onboard with vast experience in helping move public health and welfare issues into law.  Go Dr. Howard Simon!!


On August 5, 2019, at a meeting called “Public Health Alert – Florida Water Summit 2” the Calusa Waterkeeper organization premiered the 40-min documentary “Troubled Waters” to a sold-out house at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theater in Fort Myers.  The film was followed by a Panel of highly-qualified experts in their fields, most or all of whom were in the film.  All of them are dedicated to and specializing in these toxic algal issues.  This event was sponsored by Lee Health, Calusa Waterkeeper, SWFL Community Foundation, and others.  See the Reference Section at the bottom of this article for a list of these skilled and dedicated scientists as well as medical professionals and a lawyer with vast experience getting laws for people (and not planet) into the books.


A few KEY ITEMS from the Panel on August 5th:

(Please watch the videoWater Summit 2 Q&A Panel”)

  • The main reason why we don’t have the level of toxic algal blooms this year in Southwest Florida is simple, but it wasn’t easy to make happen:  The Army Corps of Engineers was “persuaded” to release Lake “O” waters to a very low level during the dry season and NOT during the warm, wet Season when the height of the problem exists.
  • Golfers and water sports lovers appear to have an increased risk of ALS due to these toxic cyanobacteria. This is actively being researched by Dr. Walter G. Bradley.
  • Early research studies point to the likelihood that 25% of ALS, Alzheimers and Parkinsons may be caused by these cyanotoxins, which–in aerosol form–may travel up to 5 miles!
  • As of August, 2019:  A Huge algal bloom is in progress 1/4 mile off the coast near Sarasota.
  • In July, 2019:  The entire west edge of Lake “O” was filmed in significant toxic algal bloom.
  • Our local governments are failing to notify the public when there is a health risk. Unfortunately, our politicians seem to be working for agribusiness.
  • Two new environmental lawsuits are in progress, driven by the Calusa Waterkeeper conservation group:
    • Lawsuit against 3 Federal Agencies was filed on June 11 to stop the release of toxic water from Lake “O”.
    • Another lawsuit is also in progress to adopt the two cyanotoxins involved with Lake “O” as regulated contaminants enforceable under the Clean Water Act. This would require that state and local governments establish protocols and issue Public Health Threat Warnings. The EPA has already established thresholds of safety upon which the lawsuits are based.
  • There are many more cyanobacteria than these two which have been studied the most extensively. The science needs to continue and come online quickly to impact public policy ASAP!
  • Lee Health will be teaching CE Classes for nurses on Cynobacteria and airborne algal blooms. One of the panelists, Holley Rauen, is helping translate the science into education.  Holley is an RN, a retired Certified Midwife and Public Health Nurse for Lee County Health.
  • There are specific diagnostic codes for physicians to use. For example this Zcode: “Z77121” is for previous exposure, contact, or suspected exposure to a toxic bloom.



China has 20% of the world’s population, and it diagnoses 50% of the world’s liver cancer cases.  Currently each year there are over 400,000 cases of liver cancer diagnosed in China and 368,000 deaths reported from this cause each year. The liver is our detox organ, and it is obvious China has huge toxicity problems.


In the Three Gorges Reservoir Region of China, at their largest lake, the level of toxicity from Microcystine blooms (a blue-green algae) is 20,000 times the World Health Organization’s “acceptable” levels, and the liver cancer rate in this lakeside area has skyrocketed.  Check out this study about children’s liver cancer in the region:


A rise in liver cancer due to toxic algal blooms is also a concern for Port St. Lucie, Florida, according to one of the Panelists at the meeting on August 5th.


There are many water-related issues in my home state of Colorado as well, issues of both quality and quantity. For example, there are nutrient problems such as phosphorus and chlorophyll a. CDPHE (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) recently released their new proposed additions to the Regulation #93 303d list of impaired waters. A good source to keep up with Colorado water related issues is the Colorado Water Education website





Here are a few suggestions I picked up from the Panel.


  • Stay OUT of the water when toxicity is present!


  • Don’t eat the fish from contaminated areas!


  • Stay more than 5 miles away from any toxic blooms (it appears it can be airborne for that far), or wear appropriate protective gear, including a breathing mask with filters designed for toxic conditions.


  • Change your A/C filters frequently.


  • THIS IS IN CLINICAL TRIAL – Watch for final FDA approval on the work of Dr. Paul Alan Cox regarding the use of L-Serine to treat ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and research on Alzheimers is next). Initial trials show it slowing the progression of ALS by 85%, giving several years of additional life for patients.  Although Dr. Cox is very clear to say that more research is needed, his research so far causes him to believe that taking L-Serine protects brain tissue from damage. (9-12 grams per day as a preventive and up to 30 grams to treat ALS)


DAILY DETOX:  And remember this!  You can detox your body daily and easily.  Consume foods that detoxify and fortify the immune system, (e.g. fermented foods, medicinal mushrooms, cilantro, asparagus, artichokes, avocados, ginger “root”, onion, garlic, raw cacao, spices and herbs such as turmeric, cinnamon, and pepper…and full-spectrum hemp too).  Make an appointment to see Dr. David to learn more.  If you are a first-timer, this is a free, 30-min consult.  Why not learn more?  Or come to our next Food as Medicine Class.  See event calendar.





Stay aware!  Monitor, connect, and get involved!  This is our water!  These are our beaches that we share with the rich sea life of SWFL!   This is our air!  This is our health…and the health of all creatures!


Become involved with your elected officials. Know who they are and what they are doing so you can vote intelligently. Two names mentioned at the Panel meeting were Connie Smith and Ray Murphy.  Begin by further educating yourself with resources and aligning with others who have already begun the campaign to heal our waters.  I recommend starting here:


WATCH THE VIDEO OF THE PANEL.  It’s called the “Water Summit 2 – Q&A Panel”,  and these amazing people will definitely inspire you!!!




Want more out of Life?  We can help reveal more secrets to your best health and happiness. Lotus Blossom Clinic provides a rich set of classes and events designed for our SWFL Community.   In fact, we have approximately 25 classes and events each month, many of them held in our new Movement Medicine Room.  Lotus Blossom Clinic is a Holistic Wellness Center, and our classes and events address the Mind, Body, and Spirit.  Check our website calendar.



For Clean Waters,


Deb Martin, Researching Author, Teacher, Reiki Master,

Dr. David Martin, Doctor of Oriental Medicine (DOM), Acupuncture Physician (AP)

Lotus Blossom Clinic, a Holistic Wellness Center

6710 Winkler Road, Suite 2
(239) 277-1399

Serving the Greater Fort Myers area with Natural and Holistic Medicine:   Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture, Massage, Science-backed Food as Medicine, Energy Medicine and Classes galore!  



Calusa Waterkeeper:   This is your go-to for the most up-to-date information on the toxic algal problem in Florida.


The Troubled Waters Panel video, August 5, 2019:


Troubled Waters Professionals:  Here are their names, in case you wish to do further research.  Many of them are published researchers and/or have written books.  Check them out individually, as this list gives only small part of their history and capabilities.


  • Walter G. Bradley, DM, RFCP is Professor and Chairman Emeritus of the University of Miami Department of Neurology.


  • John Cassani is the Calusa Waterkeeper. He is an ecologist with degrees in Biology and Fish and Wildlife.  He is a major driver of this organization.


  • David A Davis, Assistant Research Professor of Neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.


  • Howard Simon, Ph.D. in legal and political philosophy, retired last year as the longest-serving state director of the American Civil Liberties Union, serving in Michigan and Florida (the latter for 21 years).


  • Robert S. Zarranz, Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, Private Practice in Naples and Miami.


  • Larry E. Brand, Ph.D. Biological Oceanography, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor and researcher.


  • Paul Alan Cox, Ethnobotanist and Executive Director of the Brain Chemistry Labs, a non-profit research organization with a 50-member international scientific consortium focused on discovering therapies for neurodegenerative illness.


  • Holley Rauen, RN is a retired Certified Midwife and Public Health Nurse for Lee County Health.


  • Parisima Taeb, Internal Medicine Physician with multiple offices in Florida and clinical privileges in the Lee Health System hospitals.