Harmful algal blooms can cause human and animal illnesses, environmental damage, and socioeconomic impacts. We analyzed data from the first nationally representative survey to estimate public awareness and concerns about the health impacts of harmful algal blooms. Porter Novelli's Fall 2020 ConsumerStyles survey was sent to 4,548 U.S. adults between September 24 and October 10, 2020, with an overall response of 3,625 adults (80%). Weighted descriptive analyses found that over half (59%) of respondents were aware that harmful algal blooms can be a health threat, while almost a third (32%) were concerned about health or economic impacts. Awareness and concern varied by demographic characteristics. Those who reported awareness of at least one health impact were more likely to be older, White, non-Hispanic, have higher income and education levels, and not have a child in the household. Concern about harmful algal bloom impacts was lowest among males, Mountain region and inland state residents, those with higher income and education levels, and those who identify as White and non-Hispanic. Public health practitioners can improve outreach about harmful algal blooms by using information about public awareness and concerns to tailor messages for different audiences.

  • More than half (59%) of surveyed U.S. adults reported being aware that harmful algal blooms can be a health threat, but few (32%) were concerned about health or economic impacts.

  • Public health messaging can be improved by incorporating information learned from evaluations of public awareness, behaviors, attitudes, and exposure risk related to harmful algal blooms.

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