Posted by: Vicki Burns | December 3, 2017

BMAA Neurotoxin in Lake Winnipeg; Should We Be Concerned?

Over the past couple of years I have written about the possibility that BMAA , a neurotoxin found in some blue-green algae blooms, may be present in Manitoba lakes that experience the blooms. We now know that it is definitely present in Lake Winnipeg, ( Susan Murch et al; Eva Pip et al). However what we don’t know is whether it is bioaccumulating in fish from Lake Winnipeg.

 

fishshoreline Gimli EICD.jpg

Blue-green algae at Gimli on Lake Winnipeg 2017 photo credit EICD

BMAA has been associated with occurrences of neurodegenerative diseases like ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, although there has been much discussion amongst medical and public health professionals about whether there really is a causal link. In 2016 I wrote to Canada’s Minister of Health to ask that that she institute testing of our lake waters to determine if there was BMAA present. In November of 2016 I received a response from her department in which they asserted that current research indicated there was no clear, direct link between exposure to BMAA in cyanobacterial blooms and neurological effects. What this does not address is whether the frequent consumption of fish that swim in cynobacterial blooms will have a neurological effect.
At the same time as Susan Murch’s research came to public attention, this article was also published which focuses on the increasing strength of association between occurrence of ALS and chronic exposure to cyanobacterial blooms. Walter Bradley, chairman emeritus of the University of Miami’s School of Medicine’s Neurology Department , says “The evidence is gradually increasing that the poisons resulting from cyanobacteria blooms can produce neurological damage,” He is concerned that Florida’s Health Dept. should be alerting the public to the potential dangers. “ The way the Florida Department of Health has gone about the more chronic effects of these toxins is really not appropriate,” Bradley said, “because they say (not to) believe what people are saying about BMAA and the toxins from cyanobacteria being responsible for ALS or other neurodegenerations.”
If a highly respected professional, Dr. Walter Bradley, from the Miami School of Medicine is now adding his voice to several others calling for more research into this issue, I think we in Manitoba who live near many lakes that suffer extensive cyanobacterial blooms, should be expecting more from our Health Departments, at minimum research to determine the degree of bioaccumulation in fish. I will be writing to the appropriate officials asking for this and will let you know the response once it is received.

 

 

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