Blue-Green Algae – Get to Know its True Colours

The article below was published by The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit: 

GET TO KNOW ITS TRUE COLOURS
– Season For Blue-Green Algae Arrives, Bringing Reminder to Beware – and Be Aware – of Potential Risks to Public Health –

People who swim, drink and use water from area lakes are being reminded to be on the lookout for blue-green algae (BGA), and to change their habits accordingly if they detect it.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is encouraging residents, cottagers and visitors who use area lakes and waterways to educate themselves about BGA to reduce their potential health risk. In the past few summers, BGA has surfaced in local lakes, particularly in shallow, still water and during extremely warm temperatures.

“Reports of blue-green algae in our region have been more common in the summer months, so it is important to beware of the risks associated with BGA and be aware of what to look for in the water,” says Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Environmental Health with the HKPR District Health Unit.

BGA, also known as cyanobacteria, are primitive microscopic organisms that occur naturally in lakes, bays and inlets around the world. Normally, the algae are barely visible, but during warm weather the algae can rapidly increase in shallow, still waters to form a large mass called a bloom. Dense blue-green algae blooms can make the water look like a bluish-green pea soup, or a shiny paint slick. Most algae blooms are short-lived and will break down in a few days or weeks.

While many forms of blue-green algae are harmless, some forms produce toxins that can be harmful to humans and animals. This means that any exposure to the water, be it drinking, swimming, bathing, cooking or washing, can lead to health problems. The extent of how sick people can get depends on the type of BGA and how long they are exposed to the toxins, Ovcharovich says.

“If you see or detect serious signs of blue-green algae in a lake or local waterway, avoid using the water at all costs,” he says. “Boiling the water won’t help either, as this kills the algae resulting in the release of more toxins into the water.”

The Health Unit is helping raise awareness about BGA through an information campaign called Blue-Green Algae: Get to Know Its True Colours. The goal is to help people who use area lakes recognize BGA and take appropriate precautions.

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