Posted by: Vicki Burns | May 18, 2016

BMAA in Lake Winnipeg Warrants Further Research

Last month I posted a letter I had written to the Minister of Health for Canada asking if there was any research underway to determine the presence of BMAA in Canadian lakes. BMAA is a toxin present in some blue-green algae(cyanobacteria)in other parts of the world that may have a causal link to the occurrence of motor neuron diseases like ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s in some individuals. I was not aware of any research to determine if this is a toxin that is present in Lake Winnipeg or other Canadian water bodies.BMAA link to Neurodegenerative diseases
I have not received a reply from the Minister of Health yet but I did receive some communication which alerted me to research that had occurred right here at the University of Winnipeg under the direction of Dr. Eva Pip, Department of Biology. The research paper “Seasonal Nearshore Occurrence of the Neurotoxin β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) in Lake Winnipeg, Canada” was published online on April 28, 2016 by the Canadian Centre of Science and Education. Researchers took samples from 3 near shore locations in the south basin of Lake Winnipeg starting at Patricia Beach during the ice-free season between May and November, 2011. The samples were collected every 4 days and results showed that BMAA can be detected in nearshore Lake Winnipeg water in varying amounts.
There is much more research needed to determine what degree of concern we should have about BMAA and the occurrence of motor neuron diseases. At this point it’s not clear what the variety of avenues there are for human exposure to this toxin but I think the pre-cautionary principle would certainly apply and that we should be very careful to avoid exposure when blue-green algae is present.

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