Millions of tons of sargassum wash up on beaches across North America every year. Exposure can lead to breathing problems, and it costs millions to clean it up.  For major resorts, it’s costing millions upon millions in lost revenue as once amazing beaches are turned into hydrogen sulfide gas and ammonia-stinking wastelands that provide no value for travel goers.

Now, one Mexican entrepreneur is building houses out of bricks made from the invasive species.

00:00 Introduction

01:14 Collecting Sargassum

02:12 Sargablock Process

03:18 Omar’s Story

05:12 Donating Homes

6:00 Global Solutions

07:37 Conclusion

What Is Sargassum?

Sargassum is a genus of brown macroalgae in the order Fucales of the Phaeophyceae class. Numerous species are distributed throughout the temperate and tropical oceans of the world, where they generally inhabit shallow water and coral reefs, and the genus is widely known for its planktonic species.

Decomposing sargassum releases hydrogen sulfide gas and ammonia, which can cause respiratory, skin, and neurocognitive symptoms in both local residents and tourists. Toxic exposure typically happens during decomposition, approximately 48 hours after it washes ashore.

Why is sargassum a problem?

Onshore, the seaweed can be a nuisance, cutting off access to beaches, hampering the use of coastal waters, disrupting coastal ecosystems, and making a huge, stinking mess as it decomposes. Large amounts of Sargassum can also contain high concentrations of heavy metals and arsenic that may cause health issues.

Sargassum presents risks to human health as well. In the water, it’s harmless to humans, but the trouble begins once it lands on the beach and starts to decompose. The decomposition of beached sargasso begins 48 hours after washing up. It then releases hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas and ammonia.

Green sea turtles will eat large amounts of sargassum throughout their lifetimes. Besides sea turtles, this floating habitat provides food, refuge and breeding grounds for an array of other sea life including crabs, shrimp, mahi mahi, jacks, and amberjacks.