Toxic Algae Blooms May Be Worse Than We Thought, Scientists Say - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Potentially toxic algae blooms in freshwater lakes all over the world – including many in Wisconsin – have become much more intense over the past 30 years. Even worse, rising temperatures make it harder for lakes to bounce back, paving the way for more toxic blooms and creating a cycle that’s going to be difficult to get out of.

The Wisconsin DNR advises people not to swim during a blue-green algae bloom, which can cause illness or death in people and pets. Some of the symptoms of toxicity from these blooms include stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, muscle weakness and difficulty breathing – and those carry over to pets, as well.

Blue-green algae, a form of Cyanobacteria, is basically what you call “pond scum.” It doesn’t have to be blue-green, either. It’s been recorded as blue, green, reddish-purple and brown, as well. This type of bacteria grows well in lakes, ponds and slow-moving streams, especially when the water is warm. It grows quickly, creating floating mats of algae. Usually, these blooms occur between mid-June and late September in Wisconsin, but as temperatures rise, we’re likely to see them earlier and later in the year.

These toxic blooms aren’t confined to Wisconsin. They’re becoming more widespread all over the world, putting hundreds of aquatic species (as well as humans and other animals) in danger. The booms cost the U.S. about $4 billion annually because they damage drinking water, agriculture and the tourism industry.

What Do You Think?

Have you seen a blue-green algae bloom in a lake or pond near your house? Please feel free to share your photos with us on social media so others know what to look for – and share your thoughts about these toxic blooms on my Facebook page or chime in on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino