Posted by: Vicki Burns | October 2, 2013

Blue-Green Algae Linked to Significant Health Risks – Motor Neuron Disease

Blue-green algae on the shoresof Lake Winnipeg

Blue-green algae on the shoresof Lake Winnipeg

In the last few days I have seen news of a major scientific discovery in Australia which explains how exposure to blue-green algae can result in motor neuron disease, like ALS. It is important to note that likely only a small percentage of people who are exposed to the particular toxin, BMAA, in some blue-green algae will actually become ill with the disease. But it certainly caused me to pay attention and wonder if the blue-green algae in various lakes in Manitoba are being tested for the presence of BMAA.I have asked our provincial Water Stewardship Dept. and will report the response when I hear it.
The threat of blue-green algae in Manitoba lakes and right across North America is growing as evidenced by the number of alerts issued in at least 21 American States and all 10 Canadian provinces this past summer of 2013. The consequence of these alerts could be assumed to be mainly a disruption in recreational use of our freshwater lakes but it goes much deeper. There are potential issues with human and animal health; aquatic eco-system well-being; fishing industries and property values.
There seems to be a lack of urgency in implementing the measures needed to decrease the amount of phosphorus which is making its way into our streams, rivers and lakes, and ultimately fuelling the increased growth of blue-green algae. It’s frustrating to know that we do have the technologies to intercept, recover and recycle the phosphorus from one of the main point sources, human sewage. But the political will is not there yet to make the investments required. Maybe recognition of serious human health threats will spur faster action. I hope so!


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