Posted by: Vicki Burns | April 14, 2016

BMAA,Blue-Green Algae and Motor Neuron Disease,Are Canadians At Risk?

For the last couple of years there has been increasing news about the possible connection between BMAA, a toxin in some blue-green algae, and motor neuron diseases like ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. In 2014, I contacted Health Canada to see if there is any testing in Canadian waters to see if BMAA is present. Their response was that there was not enough evidence to confirm a link. Here is the letter I have just sent asking again for testing in Canada. I will publish the response I receive.

April 13, 2016
The Hon. Jane Philpott
Minister of Health, Government of Canada

Dear Dr.Phipott,

Re: Toxin BMAA in Blue-Green Algae and link to Motor Neuron Disease (Alzheimer’s, ALS, Parkinson’s)
I am writing to raise the issue of the possibility of a link between a toxin present in some blue-green algae blooms, BMAA, and the incidence of motor neuron diseases like ALS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s. In the past few years there has been research emerge from Australia and now from several locations in the USA that strengthens that possibility.

My reason for writing to you is to request that you consider directing Health Canada staff to begin testing some blue-green algae blooms in various locations across Canada to determine if BMAA is present. I contacted Health Canada in 2014 to ask if this was being done yet and was told that it is not because there is not enough evidence yet to confirm the link. I believe the body of evidence is growing which would support the need to test for the presence of that toxin in Canadian waters.
Blue-green algae (scientifically know as cyanobacteria) is becoming an increasing threat in many lakes across the country. A study 

Algae Victoria Beach Aug. 1 2010

Blue-green algae on the shores of Lake Winnipeg

released by Diane Orihel et al in 2012 showed the presence of blue-green algae in 250 lakes across Canada and the toxin, microcystin, was present in 246. Researchers from Oregon State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill released a study in 2013 that documented the increasing toxicity in cyanobacterial blooms. Dr. E. Stommel, a researcher and neurologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, has documented occurrence of ALS 25 times higher than expected in people living around a particular lake that has frequent algal blooms. Given this research as well as anecdotal reports (we do not have a Canadian registry of cyanobacterial occurrences) of the frequency of these blooms increasing in many lakes, it would seem wise to begin testing for toxins, like BMAA, that we know are present in cyanobacteria in other areas of the world.
In conclusion, I reiterate the importance of determining if the toxin BMAA is present in water bodies in Canada that experience frequent blue-green algae blooms given that scientists are now stating that chronic exposure to this environmental toxin, BMAA, may increase risk of neurodegenerative illness. The costs of human suffering along with the medical and care costs for the victims of these diseases, make any preventative measures a wise investment.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request.
Yours truly,

Vicki Burns
Director, Save Lake Winnipeg Project



  1. Thank you for sharing this information and link. It is very helpful information more people should be aware of.

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