GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Did you know that seaweed could be harmful and helpful at the same time?

No, we’re not talking about the seaweed that you eat in your sushi. We’re talking about the seaweed that washes up on beaches during the spring and summer seasons. Sargassum seaweed is a floating brown alga that contains heavy metals that can be toxic to your eyes, skin, and even your lungs.

Sargassum typically becomes harmful when it has been rotten after 24 hours. It can release harmful toxins in the air that affect your breathing. It is even harmful to some sea creatures.

After it decomposes, it removes oxygen from the water, which can cause a lot of fish to die. However, sargassum is also very helpful. It provides marine life with a habitat, food and even oxygen.

Sargassum travels in patches that can stretch for miles by hooking together like Velcro and moving along with the help of ocean currents and wind. Places like Cancun, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and the Caribbean are popular destinations and vacation spots that currently have a high-risk level of sargassum.

However, the bloom of sargassum will pose more of a threat in July and August. So be sure to pay attention to beach signs and the upkeep of the beach you plan to visit on your next visit to keep your family healthy.