Be aware of health risks of algal blooms (09/08/06)

NB 1087

Aug. 6, 2009

FREDERICTON (CNB) - New Brunswickers are being advised to be aware of the potential health risks posed by algal blooms in lakes and other recreational bodies of water. The Department of Health issued this reminder today.

As a rule, if water looks different than usual, avoid it. An algal bloom should be avoided if it appears to have a thick, blue-green or green, paint-like scum.

During a bloom, swimming, water-skiing, and other aquatic recreation and water contact should be avoided if discoloured surface scum or any highly visible blooms are noted. Blooms may form rapidly, so increased awareness is required.

Caution should also be taken when considering the consumption of fish caught in water where major blooms occur. Fish should be washed with water suitable for drinking before eating, and the organs of the fish should not be eaten.

Special consideration should be given to those who may be sensitive to algal blooms, such as young children or those with skin conditions.

Blooms may contain blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, and they may grow in waters under certain conditions. Usually this occurs during the summer or early fall.

Blue-green algae may produce substances called microcystin. Microcystin are produced by the blue-green algae and may be harmful to people and pets at very high levels or if consumed over long periods.

As with all untreated water supplies, lake water should not be used for consumption. Boiling will not eliminate toxins. When present in the water, they may cause skin, eye, and throat irritation. Dogs, other pets, and livestock are particularly vulnerable: cyanobacteria can be fatal to them.

The departments of Health and Environment are working together to ensure reported or suspected blooms are evaluated and advisories are posted if a bloom exists for a particular lake.

More information about blue-green algae is available online.


MEDIA CONTACT: Meghan Cumby, communications, Department of Health, 506-457-4800.