Part II - Blue Green Algae and the Human / Pet Family
Last month, we learned that Blue-Green Algae is a cyanobacteria that grows in bodies of fresh, brackish, and saltwater. Of the 2000 varieties of bacteria colonies or blooms that grow every year; approximately 80 strains are toxic to pets and can pose a severe health hazard to children. In animals, we know that cyanobacteria can destroy liver function, affect the central nervous system, or cause severe skin reactions in a relatively short period of time. This month, we are going to share the potential effects of cyanotoxins in humans.
Understanding the differences between pets and humans.
Pets and humans live together in harmony, and they have remarkably similar anatomy and physiology, even having the same neurotransmitters in the brain. The major difference between pets and humans, however, is their metabolisms. Because of their smaller size and more efficient body processes, animals will metabolize cyanotoxins much faster than their human companions.
Could I, or my family be in danger?
In a word, “yes.” Cyanotoxin blooms are increasing in New England and although humans will not usually swim in contaminated waters, they can still be exposed through their pets or other animals, the wind as evaporation occurs, and also via seepage into the public or household water supplies.
How can I treat a potential exposure?
Potential exposures must be treated very quickly! While an adult or older child can tolerate an exposure longer than a young child, illness and irreversible damage can and will happen if prolonged exposure occurs. If exposure occurs it is important to seek medical attention as quickly as possible, since blue-green algae can become aerosolized and enter both the lungs and sinus cavities. Once it enters these areas, long term health conditions can develop.
What symptoms should I be aware of?
Cyanotoxin exposure can cause digestive problems, affect the central nervous system and brains, or cause skin reactions. In rare cases, it can affect neurochemistry and cause neurosis or psychosis without predisposed risks. For children, the risk increases as they can also develop high fevers, seizures, and behavioral challenges.
How can I reduce the risk of exposure?
Blue-green algae normally grows in standing water areas. The algae feed on animal feces and other organic matter, moreover, it is able to generate its own food through photosynthesis. There are a few options including 3-day jar on the counter tests, mailing tests out to commercial labs, or doing onsite water tests. 5Strands Affordable Testing has developed the first test in the United States that is easy, affordable ($35), and rapid (15 minutes). If people live near bodies of water, or have free standing waters and wet spots, Dr. Ruth recommends having 1-3 tests available to test at the beginning, middle, and end of the warm months.
Dr. Ruth Moore is the Chief Medical Officer for 5Strands Affordable Testing and has a private practice as an Integrative Health Practitioner and Behaviorist in Ellsworth, Maine. She lives with her husband, Butch (a biologist) and her beloved service dog and life companion, Cooper, on the peaceful shore of Graham Lake. Both she and Cooper have shared many adventures, as they have travelled across North America and visited many bodies of water from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic to Pacific Oceans. You can see some of their insights and adventures on #lakelifefromgraham and or meet them in person as they tour with her new book, Building Resiliency: 32 Days to a Better You, available on Amazon.com or from www.DrRuthMooreBook.com.