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Biological Health Hazard – Toxic Cyanobacterium Warning (Blue-green Algae Bloom): Ohio


Published Date: 2016-06-17 09:47:44
Subject: PRO/AH/EDR> Toxic algae – USA (03): (OH) water, alert
Archive Number: 20160617.4292648

Date: Wed 15 Jun 2016 1:04 PM EDT
Source: The Columbus Dispatch [edited]

Warning signs have been placed at Buckeye Lake [Fairfield, Licking, and Perry Counties] boat ramps after tests by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) showed high levels of algae toxins there.

ODNR performed the tests last week [week of 6 Jun 2016] after learning that separate, non-recreational tests conducted by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency showed high microcystin levels.

ODNR testing conducted at the docks and boat lunches showed microcystin levels at 50 parts per billion, said agency spokesman Matt Eiselstein.

When microcystin levels exceed 20 parts per billion in recreational waters, state guidelines call for an elevated recreational public health advisory to be issued and a red “Danger” sign to be posted, indicating that algae toxins are at unsafe levels and the public should “avoid all contact with the water.”

Those signs were posted [Tue 14 Jun 2016] at the Buckeye Lake boat launches, Eiselstein said.

Even when advisories and danger signs are posted, they don’t prevent recreational activity such as boating. “They’re an educational outreach type of tool to let people know this is what we found,” Eiselstein said.

Fishing is also still considered safe, though the EPA recommends that those who come in contact with the water should wash their hands, and any fish caught should be rinsed with clean water before consumption.

[Byline: Jennifer Smola]

Communicated by:
ProMED-mail from HealthMap Alerts

[More information regarding the variety of toxic algae and their dangers is available in the moderator’s comment in ProMED-mail post 20160603.4262566.

Blue-green algae (also known as cyanobacteria) are the only group of algae to be toxic in freshwaters. They are microscopic bacteria living in water, and are capable of photosynthesising which is why they are often called algae. Though microscopic, when they form colonies and accumulate together they can become visible to the naked eye. Blue-green algae can produce potent liver and neurotoxins as well as skin irritants. However, not all blue-green algae are toxic, and even toxic species do not always produce toxins. But telling the difference in toxic and non-toxic species is challenging. – Mod.TG

Toxins produced by blue-green algae
Toxins are compounds that have a harmful effect on other cells, tissues, and organisms. In the natural environment, these toxins are generally contained within the blue-green algal cell but they are released into the water when the cell is damaged or dies.

Blue-green algal toxins can be divided into the following groups:
1. Hepatotoxins
– Hepatotoxins cause blood to collect in the liver causing circulatory shock and can lead to death by internal hemorrhaging.
– Hepatotoxins can cause weakness, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
– Nodularin and microcystin are 2 types of hepatotoxins.
– Nodularin is produced by the algal species _Nodularia spumigena_.
– Microcystins can bioaccumulate in aquatic invertebrates such as mussels so aquatic animals caught from water where there is an algal bloom should not be eaten.

2. Neurotoxins
– Neurotoxins interfere with the functioning of the nervous system and can cause death of humans and animals within minutes by causing paralysis of the respiratory muscles.
– Marine dinoflagellates (red tides) produce saxitoxins (also known as paralytic shellfish poisons) which concentrate in shellfish and have been known to cause death in humans.

3. Non-specific toxins
– Cylindrospermopsin is a non-specific toxin produced by the blue-green algae _Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii_ and _Aphanizomenon ovalisporum_.
– This toxin is a relatively slow acting toxin that damages most organs in the body including the liver.

4. Dermatoxic lipopolysachharides
– When non-toxic species of blue-green algae are present at concentrations above 10 cubic mm per litre, the water may still pose a risk to recreational and domestic users as all blue-green algae have lipopolysachharides in their cell walls.
– Lipopolysachharides are less toxic than hepatotoxins or neurotoxins but are significant in terms of water supply for drinking, showering and recreation.
– Lipopolysachharides have been associated with outbreaks of gastroenteritis, skin and eye irritations and hay fever, in humans that have come into contact with algal blooms. Humans that contact lipopolysachharides in the aerosol form (fine spray, such as sprinkler) may suffer asthma, eczema, and blisters in the lining of the nose and mouth.

Incidents of blue-green algal poisoning
Animal deaths from blue-green algae have also been reported in North and South America, Europe, and Africa. The major cause of deaths in animals is from liver poisoning and neurotoxicity that leads to respiratory failure.

Research had shown that while all species of blue-green algae produce skin irritants, not all species are capable of producing liver toxins and neurotoxins. Not all toxic marine algae are known to be hazardous to recreational water users.

For fresh waters
A Red Level Action Mode is in place when greater than 50 000 cells of _Microcystis aeruginosa_ are present or a biovolume of all toxin producing cyanobacteria exceeds 4 mm3/L. Red Level is also triggered if the total of all cyanobacteria (toxic and non toxic) exceeds 10 mm3/L or scums are present for long periods. At Red Mode, Local and Health Authorities should be contacted to assess risks to recreational users and appropriate measures should be taken to warn water users. Water should not be used for primary recreation.

While much of this comment has focused on the human health issue, pets can be similarly affected. Pets tend to die very quickly from the blue-green algae toxins.

Portions of this comment have been extracted from – Mod.TG

The state of Ohio can be located on the HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map at A county map can be seen at – Sr.Tech.Ed.MJ]

See Also

Toxic algae – USA (02): (KS) water, alert 20160616.4290298
Toxic algae – USA: (FL) water 20160520.4235574
Toxic algae – Australia: (NS) blue-green algae, alert 20160202.3988561
Toxic algae – New Zealand: (CA) blue-green algae 20160129.3976985

Toxic algae – Australia: blue-green algae 20151122.3810134
Toxic algae – UK (04): water, warning 20151007.3698634
Toxic algae – UK: (LS) blue-green, canine, fatal 20160523.4238455
Toxic algae – UK (03): (England) water, warning 20151004.3689405
Toxic algae – Canada (AB) 20150828.3608622
Toxic algae – UK (02): (England) canine, fatal, alert 20150825.3599933
Toxic algae – USA (04): (KS) water, alert 20150822.3596160
Toxic algae – USA (03): (MA) 20150816.3581352
Toxic algae – UK: (North Wales) warning 20150816.3581349
Toxic algae – China (AH) 20150811.3570037
Toxic algae – USA (02): (MN) alert 20150704.3484283
Toxic algae – USA: (MN) pet deaths, alert 20150616.3440485

Toxic algae, municipal water – USA: (OH) 20130916.1946699
Toxic algae, fish – USA: (MT) 20130910.1934702
Undiagnosed die-off, manatee – USA: (FL) toxic algae susp. 20130329.1609882
Die-off, cervids – USA: (NM) blue-green algae 20131105.2039171
and older items in the archives

A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the International Society for Infectious Diseases

One Comment
  1. I believe in oxygen …
    Look at our report on a five year project to solve these kinds of problems …
    “Lake Bant”: A five year project to solve cyanobacterial problems
    We took 5.4tones out of the water column. Energy input was only 3kW. Lake Bant is a fairly big lake.
    Michele, J.: YouTube video (2012): Fighting Blue Green Algae (Cyanobacteria),
    Flow visualization of a free jet to fight cyanobacteria (blue green algae):

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