That smelly, gooey, blue-green film that blankets the water in the late summer not only looks gross, but it could also endanger your health. Blue-green algae blooms can release toxins that once get ingested, inhaled or rubbed against the skin can lead to diarrhea, vomiting and skin rashes - persistent exposure can lead to more serious health problems. These same toxins have been known to make pets sick and cause massive kills of fish and other sea life such as dolphins, sea turtles, sea lions, manatees and birds.
Viewer Tip: Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself, your family and your pets from the harmful effects of algal blooms.
- Don't swim in it! Obey signs that prohibit swimming or other recreational activities where algal blooms are present. While some algal blooms are usually visible, others are not, so trust the sign!
- Boat at lower speeds (if permitted) so that the algae isn't "aerosolized" and sprayed into the air. Airborne toxins can cause allergic reactions and asthma-like symptoms when inhaled.
- Take a shower after wading in any algae-infested water. Toxins can be present whenever there's an algal bloom, and signs are not always posted if the bloom hasn't been reported or the water hasn't been tested yet.
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(Sources: Centers for Disease Control. “Harmful Algal Blooms.”; Ohio Department of Health. “Harmful Algal Blooms.” Accessed online April 5, 2012. Image courtesy of Dr. Jennifer L. Graham, USGS.)