Authorities issued a health advisory after a harmful algae bloom was detected in a Florida lake.
A statement from the Palm Beach County Health Department said water samples taken from Lake Okeechobee, the state’s largest freshwater lake, on May 17 point to the presence of blue-green algae toxins.
As a result, the department is warning residents not to drink lake water or swim, wade, boat or waterski in areas where algae grows.
If anyone comes in contact with the algae, the health department advises that they should wash their hands and clothing immediately.
Blue-green algae is a bacterium that thrives in freshwater. A bloom is detected when enough individual cells clump together and discolor the water.
Algae blooms can cause unpleasant odors and often lead to floating mats, according to the health department. People are warned to stay away, as the toxins in the blooms can affect human health.
High exposure to algae can cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. It can also cause throat or eye irritation, allergic reactions, and respiratory problems.
Animals can die if they consume large amounts of water that contains the algae.
It’s not the first time Lake Okeechobee has had a problem with these types of blooms. In July 2022, 45 percent of the lake was covered in them. However, this was not as extreme as it was in 2018, when blooms covered 90 percent of the lake and a state of emergency was declared in seven Florida counties.
Blooms generally thrive in warm temperatures, meaning they usually occur after sunny weather when the water temperature is higher than normal. This is usually combined with excess nutrients in the water, usually from fertilizers, sewage, or stormwater.
Although blooms can occur at any time of the year, they are most common during the summer and fall.
These toxic algae blooms are becoming increasingly common as climate change causes global temperatures to rise and waters to warm.
They affect not only human health, but also local marine ecosystems and aquatic animals.
Florida is also affected by red tide, another harmful algae bloom that typically occurs in saltwater environments.
In March, significant levels of red tide-causing algae were detected off the Gulf Coast of Florida. Although they have already disappeared, it is cause for concern when such large quantities are detected.
Lucas Griffin, a postdoctoral research associate in environmental conservation at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, said news week at that point: “While this alga remains within an area, it can release neurotoxic brevetoxins that can lead to loss of swimming ability, paralysis, and respiratory failure for marine life,” Griffin said.
“Ultimately, beyond fish mortality, red tide can affect fish reproduction and larval survival, resulting in large-scale changes in the species’ population and food chain.” coastal,” he said. “This exposure will occur either through direct exposure or through the consumption of prey that has already been affected.”
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