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Although blue-green algae is present in small quantities in most bodies of water, they become harmful for health when they multiply.
Blue-green algae are small micro-organisms that have been present on earth for the past 3.5 billion years and that are naturally present in many bodies of water. Although we call them "cyanobacteria", these micro-organisms have common characteristics with algae. Among them, is the blue and green pigment, which is responsible for their typical blue-green colour.
When they multiply excessively, blue-green algae form “algal blooms”. An algal bloom is manifested when micro-organisms develop in very abundant quantities and become visible to the naked eye. An algal bloom can affect an entire body of water or a portion of it. Typical characteristics include:
Blue-green algae multiply especially in summer, during the months of July, August, and September. Certain factors promote growth:
Phosphorus is a natural nutrient. Human activity increases their concentration in runoff waters, which end up in our bodies of water. This is why it is important to monitor or to minimize:
Therefore, all citizens have a role to play in the fight against blue-green algae by adopting healthy practices for the environment.
Toxins produced by blue-green algae can lead to various consequences on health, for instance:
The presence of scum on the water surface is generally indicative that these toxins are present in sufficient quantity to cause health problems.
Your pharmacist can recommend solutions to relieve your discomfort if you are bothered by these symptoms. Be sure to mention that you have been in contact with blue-green algae contaminated water to all healthcare professionals you deal with.
The best way to prevent the harmful consequences of blue-green algae is to avoid coming into contact with it.
It is important to report the presence of blue-green algae to the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques regional office. The government monitors contaminated bodies of water and can recommend actions to be taken by the municipalities involved. Water is a valuable resource that must be protected. As a society, the fight against blue-green algae concerns us all!
For additional information about other swimming-related health issues, read the following text: Infections and other swimming-related health issues.
Remember that your pharmacist is available to answer any health-related questions you may have.
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