Blue-green algae in lakes, rivers could produce toxic chemicals

Blue-green algae in lakes, rivers could produce toxic chemicals
Activities in lakes and rivers expose residents to blue-green algae. (Source: Pixabay/stock image/Pixabay)

ILLINOIS (KFVS) - Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Public Health officials are reminding everyone to use caution when swimming during the summer months.

Activities in lakes and rivers expose residents to blue-green algae.

Officials said most blue-green algae is harmless but some can produce toxic chemicals that cause sickness or otherwise affect the health of people and pets.

People who plan to recreate in or on Illinois lakes or rivers this summer are advised to avoid contact with water that:

  • looks like spilled, green or blue-green paint
  • has surface scums, mats, or films
  • is discolored or has green-colored streaks
  • has greenish globs suspended in the water below the surface

The algae is also known an cyanobacteria and they are microscopic organisms that naturally occur in lakes or streams.

Rapid growth of algae is referred to as a “bloom.”

Officials said the algae can have adverse affects on young children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

Usually, people are exposed to these algal toxins while swimming or participating in activities in and on the water.

Exposure is most common through direct skin contact, ingestion of contaminated water or accidental inhalation of water droplets in the air.

Official warned of the following symptoms:

  • rashes
  • hives
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • coughing
  • wheezing

More severe symptoms may result from longer or greater amounts of exposure.

Officials said to keep children and pets out of the water and not to allow pets to drink the water or lick their fur after swimming in the water.

If you are concerned you have symptoms that are a result of exposure to algal toxins, contact your health care provider or call the Illinois Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. If your pet experiences symptoms that may be a result of exposure, contact your veterinarian.

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