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The Florida Department of Health works to protect, promote & improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county, & community efforts.

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Aquatic Toxins

Aquatic Toxins Program

 swim it - shore it - dodge it

Aquatic Toxins—Swim It Shore It

With so many places in Florida to explore, we sometimes forget our beaches, lakes and rivers are natural places that change with the seasons. Enjoy Florida’s wild and not-so-wild areas, and know when to swim it, shore it or dodge it.

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 swim it - shore it - dodge it

Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) and Your Health

Florida features 1,200 miles of coastline, 11,000 miles of rivers, streams and creeks, 7,700 lakes and more large springs than any other state. The Florida Department of Health (DOH) works to keep these waters safe from harmful algal blooms (HABs) and their toxins (or poisons). This work helps keep people safe from HABs when they play in or near water bodies or when they eat Florida seafood.

DOH protects the health of people who live in or visit Florida by:

  • Informing people about HABs
  • Working with local, state and federal agencies to help people avoid becoming ill from HABs

HABs include Karenia brevis (red tide), ciguatera, and blue-green algae. DOH also helps people avoid toxins from other animals and plants that live in water. There is more information on HABs on websites from these agencies:

  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)
  • Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
  • Florida Poison Control Center
  • US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

DOH provides education to the public, as well as the health care workers who serve them, to prevent and reduce illnesses caused by HABs.

Florida's Poison Control Centers and DOH in the counties report HAB-related cases to the Department. We also review hospital information to find new cases of illness. We work to see if HABs caused them.

DOH works with neighborhood groups, local health departments, and any group who wants to learn more about HABs. We also teach people how to avoid contact with HABs.

DOH partners with many agencies and other groups to better understand how and when people get sick from HABs. We work together to share information on health and the environment. Some of our partners include (all links open in a new window):

DOH provides research-based information to residents and visitors, health care workers, as well as other people who want to know about the health impacts HABs may cause. We help people make informed, healthy choices to be safe while playing near or in water bodies and when eating local seafood.

Our materials with more information on HABs include:

Red Tide Card Dodge It - pdf <1mb, opens in new window

Red tides, also called harmful algal blooms, occur worldwide. In Florida, naturally occurring, microscopic alga cause most red tides. A red tide means there is a higher-than-normal concentration of organisms present. This information card gives facts and contact information about red tide events in Florida.

Red Tide FAQs <1mb, opens in new window

This fact sheet answers frequently asked questions about Red Tide.

Ciguatera Card Spanish <1mb, opens in new window

Ciguatera Card English <1mb, opens in new window

Beware of Ciguatera Poster <1mb, opens in new window

This poster describes the types of fish that have been associated with eating ciguatera.

Blue Green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, occur all around Florida and the world. Many are single celled. Some may produce chemicals that can harm humans and animals.

To report a

FISH KILL, call the FWC at: 1-800-636-0511 or the FWC web site (opens in new window) 

BLUE GREEN ALGAL blooms (cyanobacteria), call 855-305-3903 or the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) web site (opens in new window)

ILLNESSES related to aquatic toxin exposures or harmful algae, call the Poison Control Hotline at: 1-800-222-1222.

RED TIDE: Information on Red Tide locations in Florida can be found at the Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC) website or by calling 866-300-9399.  Mote Marine Laboratory also provides information on red tide at 941-232-2437.   

Contact the Aquatic Toxins Program

Email: Public Health Toxicology   Note: Under Florida Law, e-mail addresses are public records. If you do not want your email address released in response to a public records request, do not send electronic mail to this entity. Instead, contact this office by phone or in writing.

Phone: 813-307-8015 X 5961
Physical Address: 4052 Bald Cypress Way,
Bin A-08, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1710

*Note: This page contains materials in the Portable Document Format (PDF).  The free Adobe Reader may be required to view these files.

*Note: This page contains materials in the Portable Document Format (PDF).  The free Adobe Reader may be required to view these files.