- Both human swimmers and aquatic species may be put in danger by harmful algae blooms.
- Blooms can appear as vividly colored spots that resemble spilled paint or as greenish slime.
- When the water is warm, still, and nutrient-rich, algae grow out of control.
Health officials are alerting locals to the dangers of toxic algae poisoning as lakes around the nation sprout foul-smelling, greenish mats of aquatic bacteria.
Most single-celled algae and related species are benign or even helpful to marine ecosystems. However, under specific circumstances, algae can “grow” quickly, putting wildlife in peril and making swimming dangerous.
Blue-green algal blooms have been observed at Doctors Lake in Clay County, Florida, Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas, and Lake Pillsbury in northern California. Crimson tides are caused by saltwater algae species that can turn the coastlines red. Freshwater algae blooms are normally greenish in color.
Although animals are more likely to be impacted, swimming in or near contaminated water can put humans in danger of toxic algal poisoning. Rash outbreaks, vomiting, wheezing, diarrhea, and other symptoms of algae poisoning are possible.
According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2017 and 2019, exposure to hazardous algae blooms was the cause of more than 300 trips to the emergency room.
Environmental scientists are concerned that the severity and frequency of dangerous algal blooms are already increasing as a result of the climate issue. It’s only a matter of time before complaints of illnesses linked to algal blooms increase as blooms continue to flourish.
Algal blooms could release chemicals and dangerous gases.
Warm, slow-moving, nutrient-rich water is necessary for an out-of-control algal population. The Environmental Working Group claims that the “ideal” circumstances for an algae bloom have been brought about by climate change.
All species of algae and cyanobacteria find water more friendly due to warming temperatures and rising carbon dioxide concentrations (also known as blue-green algae). According to the Environmental Protection Agency, periods of excessive rainfall and cycles of drought further raise the danger of runoff, which adds extra nutrients to the water and encourages the growth of algae.
Small children who play in shallow waters and are more susceptible to algae-related illness are to blame. Nearly half of those who were ill in 2019 from exposure to algae were children under the age of eight, according to the CDC.
Although not all algal blooms are dangerous, public health experts typically advise avoiding water that has an odd appearance. According to the CDC, some forms of algae are detrimental to both people and animals, while others can reduce the amount of oxygen in the water or emit dangerous gases into the atmosphere.
If they swim in or near contaminated water, or if they consume tainted food or water, humans can become ill from toxic algae. Toxins from algae are ingested by small fish and shellfish in the afflicted areas, and those toxins may go up the food chain.
A toxic algae poisoning may result in breathing issues and gastrointestinal aches.
Depending on whether polluted water was consumed, inhaled accidentally, or came into touch with skin, different illnesses caused by toxic algae present different symptoms.
In contrast to upset stomachs, rashes, and other toxic algal poisoning symptoms, the respiratory disease was more prevalent, according to CDC surveillance conducted between 2017 and 2019. But, they added, cases, where people complained of coughing, congestion, and breathing difficulties, might have been linked to a significant “red tide” along the Gulf of Mexico in 2018.
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