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Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit
Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit

Recreational Water

Blue-Green Algae (Cyanobacteria) and their Toxins

Blue-green algae is an unwelcome site on any local water and local health authorities want people to know what to do if they encounter it.

Despite its name, blue-green algae can range in colour from olive-green to red. It can cause the pond scum sometimes seen in shallow, slow-moving water in summer and early fall.

It’s the Health Unit’s job to educate people on the possible risks of blue-green algae and what to do to keep Healthy. Blue-green algae are likely here to stay. When conditions are right, a bloom can occur and possibly release toxins. It is not possible to accurately predict when that will happen.

Blue-green algae can be harmful to animal and human health.

The Health Unit offers the following information:

The risk: Blue-green algae toxins, if present in sufficient amounts and ingested, can cause headaches, fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting. Contact may cause rashes and mucous membrane irritation.

Water treatment: The toxins are not removed by boiling, chlorination, or ultra-violet treatment.

Consult a water treatment specialist if your water is affected.

Avoid use of water affected by blue-green algae:

  • Use alternate sources of drinking water for both people and animals.

  • Do not use the water for cooking as heating the water or boiling the water can concentrate the toxins.

  • Use an alternate source of safe water when preparing foods such as baby formula, concentrated juices, soups, ice cubes etc.

  • Use an alternate source of safe water when brushing your teeth.

  • Avoid skin contact with water including swimming, bathing and showering.

  • Try to keep pets or livestock from entering the affected water.

  • Do not eat the liver, kidney or other internal organs of fish or shellfish from affected water.

  • Avoid using affected water for washing clothes or dishes.

  • If no safe, alternate supply is available, use rubber gloves to avoid direct contact with the water.




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Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit
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