CDC Warns Public to Avoid the Toxic Algae “Blooming” in Warming Waters

Toledo, Ohio is breathing a sigh of relief after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced on Thursday that the annual toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie’s western basin is forecast to be “smaller-than-average” compared to recent years. 2014 saw a swell of cyanobacteria. sent officials scrambling and forced the water treatment plant to shut off the city’s tap water for three days. That wasn’t even the largest bloom on record in western Lake Erie. In 2011, and 2015, levels of cyanobacteria were at their highest even higherThe blue-green scum creates thick layers of algae on the lake.

Cyanobacteria is a bacteria that produces toxins that can damage the internal organs in humans and animals. Exposure can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms such as pain, dizziness, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. The Great Lakes region enjoys one of the world’s largest supplies of fresh water, and residents were shocked by the water shutoff, not to mention the signs posted at beaches to warn swimmers the lake was poisonous. Local activists rose to the occasion and organized a ballot initiativeTo save the lake.

Harmful algae blooms, as researchers call them, are not just Lake Erie’s problem. Nearly every state is impacted by the toxic blooms, which threaten wildlife, vital economic resources and public health, accordingThe U.S. National Office for Harmful Algal blooms. In 2018, a toxic bloom in Oregon’s Detroit Lake reportedlySalem was panicked, and Oregon and Ohio now require water utilities testing for algae toxins. Other states may soon follow their lead. Researchers are currently studying harmful blooms in Chukchi Sea. This remote Arctic Ocean sea was once thought to be too frigid to support toxic alga. Indigenous fishers also harvest the same waters to provide food. Scientists believe there are many causes of algae blooms. However, heavier rains and warmer water due to climate change are adding to the problem. exacerbateThe problem.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control published a nationwide advisory urging people to avoid “toxic algae and cyanobacteria” that can quickly grow “out of control” in freshwater lakes and rivers, coastal saltwater areas, and brackish bays and estuaries across the country. Harmful blooms often look like “mats” of “scum” across the water, and can make the water appear different colors, such green, red, brown and blue.

After a campaign by activists, Toledo voters approved a plan to give Lake Erie the legal right to defend itself in court, a temporary victory for the “rights of nature” movement. However, the plan was rejected. thrown outA federal judge in 2020. Toxic algal blooms remain a topic for discussion at dinner tables across the Great Lakes Region, especially in summer when people head down to the beach to see the blooms. Although there are many algae that can be found naturally, they are not toxic. However, the western basin of Lake Erie has been home to harmful cyanobacteria for many summers.

Scientists have identified several reasons for toxic algae blooms. Heavy summer rains can push polluting runoff directly from industry, cities, and industrial agriculture into rivers and streams. This pollution then contaminates lakes, bays, and coastal areas. This runoff can contain excessive amounts of nitrogen and/or phosphorus, often from fertilizer. These nutrients can cause large algal blooms to grow as the water warms in summer. This can lead to oxygen loss and even death for fish and other wildlife.

Algae researchers are now interested in climate change, as both rainfall and warm summer temperatures are crucial to the alga bloom equation. Researchers now believe global warming is. making algae blooms worseSome regions of the globe, especially large lakes, are affected. One 2019 studySatellite imaging was used for the estimate that nearly two-thirds (71) of 33 large lakes in 33 countries experienced an increase in algae bloom intensity over the past three decades. Researchers warn that there are many other local causes of algal blooms, such as weather patterns and agricultural practices. Global warming is not helping.

Don Anderson, director at the U.S. Alga Bloom Office at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, is one of the nation’s top experts on harmful saltwater algae. Anderson has studied blooms in Maine, Florida, and Alaska. But the most important climate story is from Alaska, where blooms are of the Alexandrium cantanellaThey are now appearing in the Chukchi Sea. Scientists had previously believed the sea was too frigid for the organism to germinate or reproduce in the Chukchi Sea. But warmer temperatures and melting seaice are making the water more inviting to toxic algae blooms.

“The same organism that we study and have studied for decades in the Gulf of Maine and other parts of the U.S. — we thought for a long time that the waters were too cold up there for it to do very well,” Anderson said in an interview.

In a recent studyAnderson and his team published their findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A. cantanella grows from “cysts” that act like underwater seed pods, which drift from warmer waters to the south and become embedded in layers of sediment in the sea floor. The concentration of cysts in a “bed” below the Chukchi is among the highest in the world for this species, the study found, and the bed itself is at least six times larger than any other. Poisonous blooms have threatened public health in southeastern Alaska for centuries, but now a region that was once immune is poised to support annual blooms on a “massive scale.”

“It’s a big story because the people up in that area, local Indigenous people, are subsistence harvesters: They live off the ocean, from seabirds to sea lions to walrus to whales to all these different marine animals that virtually all can be vectors for these poisons,” Anderson said.

Anderson said no one in western Alaska has yet reported becoming sick after harvesting from the Chukchi Sea, and scientists are still working to understand how the algae’s biotoxins work their way through the food chain beyond shellfish. A. cantanella The poisonous shellfish include all species of shellfish, and shellfish harvested for their food are often tested for algal toxins. However, in the remote and tribal regions on the Chukchi Sea, testing the day’s catch for algae toxins and monitoring the water for blooms has never been part of the harvesting process. Toxic algae is now a part of the new climate reality for Indigenous fishers.

If you have symptoms and suspect that you have been exposed, contact your doctor immediately. poison control centerThe CDC states that.