FREDERICTON (GNB) – Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, is reminding New Brunswickers to be cautious about the potential health risks posed by some algal blooms in lakes and other bodies of water used for recreational purposes.

“We want all residents to be active and enjoy the outdoors, but we also want them to understand and consider the potential risks of exposure to these blooms,” said Russell.

Under the right conditions, algae blooms can occur naturally in many water systems including lakes, rivers and wetlands. This typically occurs during the summer months or early fall and can appear blue-green, green, red, brown or yellow in colour.

Some blue-green algae can produce toxins, which can cause skin, eye and throat irritation. More serious health effects such as gastrointestinal illness can occur if toxins are consumed.

Safety advice includes:

  • Do not swallow lake or river water when swimming, and always supervise young children and pets in recreational waters.
  • Bathe or shower immediately after swimming.
  • Do not enter the water with open cuts or sores.
  • Do not use water from areas with blue-green algal blooms for drinking or cooking. Boiling the water will not remove toxins. Always obtain drinking water from a clean and safe source.
  • Fish caught from water where blooms are present should have all their organs removed and be rinsed well with clean drinking water before being cooked and eaten.
  • Even if no blooms are present, it is recommended you shower with clean water after being in recreational waters.

“Algal blooms can be unpredictable so it is important that people be cautious and check the water before entering,” said Russell. “A blue-green algae bloom can appear as surface scum and/or discoloured water. If a blue-green algae bloom is suspected, do not swim, water-ski or engage in any other recreational activity that may involve contact with water in areas where a bloom is observed.”

Microcystins are substances produced by the blue-green algae and may be harmful to people, pets and livestock at very high levels, or if consumed over long periods.

More information is about blue-green algae is available online.