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Toxic Surfs

Homing in on an alga's threat—and therapeutic promise

On a warm, sunny day, you can hear the presence of a "red tide" of toxic algae on popular Florida beaches, says Barbara Kirkpatrick. It's not the roar of coastal waves or the gurgle of flowing water, she explains, but "one continuous cough," as thousands of sunbathers and swimmers respond to airborne irritants that the algae expel in the surf.

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