Posted by: Vicki Burns | May 7, 2021

“Very Fast Death Factor”, ATX, Airborne Algal Toxin Recent Discovery

Image of blue-green algae that looks like a can of paint has been spread on the water alongside a dock with fishing boats .
Blue-green algae at Pine Dock on Lake Winnipeg, photo courtesy of EICD

I was shocked to see this news headline recently and very dismayed when I read the actual story about it. Researchers in Massachusetts conducted a study around a freshwater pond on Nantucket Island and determined that a neurotoxin, anatoxin-a coined ATX, was being released into the air from a blue-green algae bloom on the pond. The research was published in a peer reviewed journal, Lake and Reservoir Management.
ATX, which has been called Very Fast Death Factor, causes a range of symptoms at acute doses, including respiratory paralysis, muscular twitching and loss of coordination. There have been cases of dogs, livestock and waterfowl dying after drinking infected water.
I’ve been writing about blue-green algae, particularly in Lake Winnipeg, for 11 years now and each year the news about algal toxins seems to become more alarming. And yet, in Manitoba where I live there has been little concrete action to actually decrease the source of the problem, the excess phosphorus and nitrogen that are feeding the algae. There is no doubt that the occurrence of toxic algal blooms is causing concerns the world over so what is happening in my home community is not unusual. But when I see headlines like what you see above I am frustrated and saddened that we are allowing this kind of destruction to our precious lifeblood, water.
To my knowledge there is no research or data collection going on here near the shores of Lake Winnipeg and other Prairie lakes to determine if there are airborne neurotoxins like ATX. I believe in the precautionary principle which would support the idea that if airborne toxins are occurring in other parts of North America, shouldn’t we consider the possibility that they may be occurring here as well near areas with large blue-green algae blooms? My hope is that we can persuade government and other important stakeholders to seriously begin to change the practices that are contributing to the occurrence of toxic algae.



  1. Vicki, I agree with you. It is time for the government and municipalities take serious action!!

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