Blue Green Algae- To swim or Not to Swim?

Many of us love to be outdoors and find a sense of peace when we take walks with our pets near water, like our local lakes and ponds, but what kind of water are we exposing our pets to? In the United States and all over the world there has been an increasingly alarming environmental issue with our water containing blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria. There has even been scientific research done that indicated the prevalence of blue-green algae around the world.

Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, is a group of photosynthetic bacteria that live in a wide variety of freshwater and saltwater environments. Sunlight, stagnant, warm water temperatures and excess nutrients cause these species to “bloom”. Some species of blue-green algae contain cyanotoxins and can produce large and harmful algal blooms (HABs). They contain hepatotoxin, a toxic chemical that damages the liver. Microcystin-LR (MC-LR) and nodularin-R (Nod-R) are the more common toxins found in our freshwater and saltwater environments. These HABs can become so toxic that “even when a bloom has dissipated, toxins can still remain in the body of water” (Walker, 2019). 

In the United States, there have been blue-green algae incident reports made in Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Carolina, to name a few. These toxins have been attributed to gastroenteritis, allergic reactions and may cause serious damage to the liver. There has also been a numerous amount of pet deaths caused by exposure to blue green algae. Some predeath symptoms three dogs in Wilmington, North Carolina experienced were seizures and foaming at the mouth. Dogs can also experience nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, as well as severe liver damage. Because of these increasingly occurring deaths, it has caused national news, researchers and organizations to look more into our lakes and ponds to show that our local freshwater and saltwater are harmful to both swim in and consume.

In Turku, Finland, researchers have conducted several studies that test their surface water to show the presence of the widespread hepatotoxins. They used highly sensitive immunoassays that detected the existence of the harmful chemicals in the environmental surface water samples (Akter, Vehniainen, Spoof, Nybom, Meriluoto, & Lamminmaki, 2016). “The Environmental Working Group…found nearly 300 blooms recorded in lakes and rivers in 48 states since 2010” (Marohn, 2018). They also found that in 2017, “169 blooms were reported in 40 states, compared to three in 2010” (Marohn, 2018). So, there is no doubt that these toxins are becoming more and more of an issue in the world.

Fortunately, there is a way that our surface water can be tested!  5Strands® Affordable Testing now has a Blue Green Algae Test that allows consumers to test their local lakes and ponds. The kit is simple and easy to use and after 15 minutes of use, it will indicate if there are blue-green algae in the water. 

With global warming and climate change, these toxins will spread even more and become more prevalent in our environment. Unfortunately, it is difficult to rid our waters of these toxins. However, you can allow yourself to be at ease for your pets and livestock that are exposed to and consume our surface water by testing your local lakes and ponds with 5Strands Blue Green Algae Test. I know my dog, Max, loves the water and loves drinking water wherever he goes and the last thing I want to happen is Max becoming seriously ill or worse after simply trying to hydrate himself. So please, do your research and be sure to test your local lakes and ponds. We may not be able to rid them of these harmful toxins, but we can at least minimize the number of illnesses and deaths after exposure.

References

Akter, S., Vehniainen, M., Spoof, L., Nybom, S., Meriluoto, J., & Lamminmaki, U. (2016, 

September 22). Broad-Spectrum Noncompetitive Immunocomplex Immunoassay for Cyanobacterial Peptide Hepatotoxins (Microcystins and Nodularins). Retrieved from https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.analchem.6b02470

Marohn, K. (2018, May 15). Report: Toxic algae are growing threat to water, human health. 

Retrieved from https://www.mprnews.org/story/2018/05/15/toxic-algal-blooms-increasing-threat-to-water-human-health

Walker, M. (2019, August 14). Dogs are dying from blue green algae: What pet owners need to 

know. Retrieved from https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2019/08/13/

blue-green-algae-killing-dog-poisoning/1996204001/

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