Massive spread of sargassum could cause more health problems for asthmatics, beachgoers in South Florida

SURFSIDE, Fla. – Mounds of brown, tangled blobs of seaweed, also known as sargassum, have been spotted this Spring Break all throughout beaches in South Florida.

It’s unsightly, it smells and it’s washing up on beaches in great amounts.

Dr. Brian Lapointe, a researcher at FAU, told Local 10 News last month the thick, bushy seaweed sargassum is coming in earlier than usual and this year’s bloom is massive.

Satellite imagery shows that the sargassum is about 5,000 miles wide.

Sky 10 flew over the scene of Surfside Beach Friday where massive amounts of sargassum were scattered throughout the beach.

Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a coastal science professor at FIU, told Local 10 News Friday that the seaweed we’ve seen so far is nothing compared to what we’ll see this summer.

“This is the biggest year yet so that’s pretty scary,” he said. Even in July, there’s a massive amount here we’ve got some more time before it piles up feet thick.”

Experts say there was a big uptick of seaweed in 2014, 2019 and it looks like 2023 could be the largest sargassum bloom recorded.

If the massive amount does make it to our beaches, doctors say it can have serious environmental and health impacts.

“The compound that it (sargassum) gives off is hydrogen sulfide. That gas is considered irritating to the upper and lower airways,” said Dr. Maxcie Sikora, of Allervie Health. “Coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath--it makes for an unpleasant experience for asthmatics.”

Officials also told Local 10 News that they have crews clearing the seaweed from the beach every morning.

About the Authors:

Liane Morejon is an Emmy-winning reporter who joined the Local 10 News family in January 2010. Born and raised in Coral Gables, Liane has a unique perspective on covering news in her own backyard.

Ryan Mackey is our newest digital journalist at WPLG. He is New York born and South Florida raised.