Originally published in The News-Press by Amy Bennett Williams on May 20, 2019

Federal scientists plan a first-ever study of Lake Okeechobee fishing guides to help understand the long-term health effects of the lake’s cyanobacteria blooms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention intends to recruit 50 volunteers for the research, people “likely to be highly exposed to the blooms on Lake Okeechobee … fishing guides (and) people who do charter fishing expeditions,” said Lorraine Backer, senior scientist and environmental epidemiologist at the National Center for Environmental Health, in an exclusive interview with The News-Press.

Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani does as well. “I recently came across a PowerPoint presentation from a leading researcher on inhalation toxicity, from the Geisel School of Medicine at New Hampshire’s Dartmouth.”

Delivered last month, the Ivy League study is sobering, Cassani said. “It’s scary stuff.” Which is why he wants to see more such research. “Apparently nasal inhalation is the quickest form into your bloodstream … It’s just a mind-boggling issue,” he said. “I think it’s appropriate because there are established cancer clusters around Lake Okeechobee … but the puzzle is coming together.”

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