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Public advised of potential health risks of blue-green algae


Published on July 5, 2017

Acting chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell.

FREDERICTON, N.B. – New Brunswickers are advised to be aware of the potential health risks posed by some algal blooms in lakes and other bodies of water.

Algae blooms can occur in waters when the appropriate conditions are present; usually during the summer months or early fall.

While not all algae blooms are harmful to human health, blue-green algae can produce toxins.

Microcystins are substances produced by the blue-green algae and may be harmful to people, pets and livestock at very high levels, or if consumed over long periods.

Dr. Jennifer Russell

These toxins can cause skin, eye and throat irritation. If consumed, they may lead to more serious health effects such as severe gastrointestinal illness.

“Microcystins are substances produced by the blue-green algae and may be harmful to people, pets and livestock at very high levels, or if consumed over long periods,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, acting Chief Medical Officer of Health. “Special consideration should be given to those who may be sensitive to this algae, such as young children or those with skin conditions.”

The Department of Health encourages the public to be active and enjoy the outdoors, but to be cautious and check the water before entering, as the appearance and location of algal blooms can be unpredictable.

Where a blue-green algal bloom is suspected (paint-like scum or blue, green or other discoloured water) avoid swimming or any other recreational activity that may involve contact with the water (e.g., water-skiing).

Always obtain drinking water from a clean and safe source. Do not drink water from areas with blue-green algal blooms. Boiling the water will not remove the toxins that may be present.

Fish caught from water where blooms are present should have all their organs removed and be rinsed well with clean drinking water before cooking and eating.

The departments of Health and Environment and Local Government are working together to ensure reported or suspected blooms are evaluated and that advisories are posted where appropriate.

Suspected algae blooms should be reported to the nearest Department of Environment and Local Government regional office.

More information is available online at www.gnb.ca/algae.