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The Dangers of Blue-Green Algae

Updated on October 16, 2012
Blue-Green Algae
Blue-Green Algae | Source

What Is Blue-Green Algae And What You Can Do About It

As the summer months approach, we start to hear more and more people talking about blue-green algae. It’s a serious problem for many people, but so many of us don’t even know what it is. In this article I touch on the most important points you need to know about blue-green algae: what it is, why it’s dangerous and what you can do to help prevent it.

Blue-Green Algae is the common name for cyanobacteria. Although it is called blue-green algae, it is not an algae: it’s actually a bacteria that has been occurring naturally for thousands of years. It has only recently become problematic with the increase of harmful human activities.

Why Is Blue-Green Algae Dangerous?

Blue-green algae forms blooms in water systems and sometimes these blooms are toxic and therefore dangerous to humans and animals. The toxins from Blue-green algae have been known to cause illnesses and rashes in people and has killed animals. It is also bad for the aquatic environments that they grow into, because it depletes oxygen and kills plants and animals that live in the water.

How Does Blue-Green Algae Occur?

Physical and chemical factors can contribute to the occurrence of blue-green algae. Physical factors that encourage its growth include warmer temperatures and heavy rainfalls.

Chemical factors include runoff from phosphorus and nitrogen sources. Phosphorus can come from a variety of chemical products, such as detergents and pesticides. Urban and agricultural runoff have also been linked to blue-green algae: nitrogen runoff comes from sewage and waste from farms and slaughterhouses.

As blue-green algae reproduce they create what are called “blooms” which are blue-green in color and have the appearance of algae (which is where they get their name). It increases the pH level in the water and depletes oxygen levels. These blooms are often accompanied by a strong smell due to the increased anaerobic decomposition.

Who Is Affected By Blue-Green Algae?

Cyanobacteria is a worldwide problem. Many people who live in rural areas and who use lakes for their drinking water are affected. Blue-green algae makes water undrinkable, it is toxic to humans and animals, and has been known to cause illness. It affects anyone who lives or uses water that is polluted.

Blue-Green Algae
Blue-Green Algae | Source

How To Prevent The Spread Of Blue-Green Algae

It is very expensive to filter out phosphorus from water systems, which is why filtration systems do not properly filter it out before contaminated water re-enters the water system. One of the major problems is that people are not aware of how damaging phosphorus is for the environment. People can help prevent phosphorus contamination by buying phosphorus free products in order to prevent contamination. It is easy to obtain phosphorus free detergents and soaps. Many products are all natural and do not contain any harmful chemicals in them. Make sure you are aware of what you are buying. Remember: It is very important for consumers to drastically reduce the amount of phosphorus that they use, as detergents in water systems is one of the leading causes of water contamination.

Runoff from industrial sources such as urban areas and industrial sources including agricultural practices also contributes to the problem. By planting more trees, the amount of runoff that enters into waterways is significantly reduced.

How To Protect Yourself

Make sure you are aware of what blue-green algae looks like and make sure that if you are around a water system that has blue-green algae, keep people and pets away from the area.
Do not swim in water that has blue-green algae and make sure that people and pets do not drink it.

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    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 5 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      WOW! I didn't know it was so dangerous. Thanks for a great hub, well written, good information. Welcome to hub pages. I love it here!