Blue-Green Algae

Blue-Green Algae

What is blue-green algae?

Algae are a type of creature that lives in water and is very tiny (microscopically). Blue-green algae (also known as cyanobacteria) are a form of bacterium that may be found in a variety of lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. In the summer, these bacteria may proliferate rapidly, resulting in widespread growths known as blooms. Algae grow best in calm circumstances and resemble scum on the water’s surface. The algae can be blue-green or greenish-brown in color and has a musty or grassy dour.

Toxins are produced by some forms of blue-green algae that bloom. poisonous chemicals may be discharged into the water as poisonous blooms die and disintegrate. Most toxins dissolve within two weeks, but they can remain in the water at low levels for months after a bloom has formed. Some blooms are so terrible that they kill cattle. Some blooms may not contain toxins, but the appearance of a bloom cannot tell you whether it is toxic or not. If you notice a bloom, always proceed with caution as if it were dangerous.

How does blue-green algae affect human health?

Children may be more susceptible to becoming sick from blue-green algae because they spend more time in the pool and may accidentally consume polluted water.

Contact with blue green algae-containing water (e.g., swimming, boating) can result in:

  • rash sores and skin irritation Sore throat, burning eyes
  • Lip enlargement
  • signs of hay fever (such as a stuffy nose)

Drinking water contaminated with blue-green algae can result in:

Diarrheic, weakness, liver damage, and fever (temperatures more than 38.5 °C or 101.3 °F)
nausea and vomiting, as well as muscle and joint pain abdominal cramping

All algal blooms should be treated with caution. If you have been in touch with blue-green algae-contaminated water and are experiencing symptoms, call Health Link at 811.

How does blue-green algae affect livestock and pets?

Although lakes are frequently a healthy supply of drinking water for cattle and pets, blue-green algae-infested lakes can be lethal if algal toxins are present. Some cattle and wildlife diseases and fatalities have been attributed to animals drinking water with blue-green algae. Animals aren’t bothered about how water looks or smells before they consume it, so keep them away from natural water sources with algae blooms. Allowing animals to consume whole fish or trimmings (any waste from filleting a fish, including the head, bones, guts, or skin) from impacted lakes is not permitted.

Blue-Green Algae

When blue-green algae builds a scum on top of ponds or other stagnant waterways in late summer and early autumn, it poisons the water. Cattle are the most usually affected due to the predisposing husbandry practices. Poisoning by blue-green algae has been documented in North America, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. Anabaena algae are the most commonly implicated. There are two types of blue-green algae poisoning syndromes: neurotoxic and hepatotoxic. The neurotoxic illness is immediate, and cattle drinking water contaminated with the neurotoxic principle Anatoxin A can die within minutes and are generally discovered near to the pond or water (algae) source. The hepatotoxic principle, on the other hand, induces an acute kind of poisoning characterised by lethargy and jaundice. Death is possible.

blue green algae

However, a few blue-green algae species, including Microcystic, Aphanizomenon, and Anabaena, release toxins that can cause disease in people and animals. These poisons have the potential to induce gastroenteritis, neurological problems, and even cancer. In this situation, disease is induced by the organisms’ toxin, rather than the creature itself, as is the case with helminths. There have been numerous reports of cattle, pet, and animal poisonings caused by cyanobacteria water blooms, and evidence is emerging that people are also harmed. When adequate nutrients are available, cyanobacteria blooms can form in surface waterways, resulting in sewage-contaminated water sources.

Role of green algae and cyanobacteria

These blue-green algae and green algae were found in a variety of aquatic and terrestrial habitats. Organophosphorus insecticides and Cyanobacterial biofertilizers are used extensively in paddy agriculture to diminish the occurrence of insect pests. The role of pesticides in pest control was also determined by the type of bacteria strains. Subramanian, Sokar, and Sampoornam (1994) studied the development of 10 distinct filamentous heterocyst strains in organophosphates (50 ppm malathion and Monocrotophos). A. fertilissima and N. muscorum produced the most growth. Changes in the pesticides Quinalphos, Malathion, Dichlorovos Monocrotophos, and Phosphamide were used to test the effects of inorganic phosphates on two strains (Caceres, Maharaj, & Naidu, 2008). Fenamiphos is converted into fenamiphos sulfoxide, and FSO is hydrolyzed.

What about watering my vegetable garden?

Water edible plants (particularly those with edible sections exposed to the ground surface, such as cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, and other salad vegetables) with water containing blue-green algae. It is unknown if fruits and vegetables acquire poisons from algae-infested water.

Is it safe to cook with water that might contain blue-green algae?

Blue-green algae toxins are not removed by boiling water. Cooking with water containing blue green algae is not recommended.

Is it safe to eat fish from water that might contain blue-green algae?

Blue-green algae-affected lakes’ fish fillets are safe to consume. Because fish retain toxins in their livers, you may want to restrict how much whole fish and trimmings (any waste from filleting a fish including head, bones, guts, or skin) you consume.

The livers of fish caught in Alberta lakes are being tested. These test results might influence future changes to the fish consumption warning messaging.

Blue-green algae, often known as cyanobacteria, are a diverse group of prokaryotic, mostly photosynthetic organisms. Cyanobacteria resemble eukaryotic algae in many respects, including physical traits and ecological niches, and were previously classified as algae, therefore the popular term blue-green algae. Algae have now been reclassified as protists, and because they are prokaryotic, blue-green algae are placed with bacteria in the prokaryotic kingdom Moneran.

Cyanobacteria, like other prokaryotes, lack a membrane-bound nucleus, mitochondria, the Golgi apparatus, chloroplasts, and the endoplasmic reticulum. All of the actions carried out by these membrane-bound organelles in eukaryotes are carried out by the bacterial cell membrane. Some cyanobacteria, particularly planktonic varieties, include gas vesicles that help them float. Chemical, genetic, and physiological traits are used to further identify the group within the kingdom. Cyanobacteria can be either unicellular or filamentous. Many have sheaths that connect to neighboring cells or filaments to create colonies.

blue green algae

Cyanobacteria only have one kind of chlorophyll, chlorophyll a, which is a green pigment. They also include a variety of yellowish carotenoids, the blue pigment phycobilin, and, in rare cases, the red pigment phycoerythrin. The combination of phycobilin and chlorophyll generates the distinctive blue-green hue that gives these creatures their common name. Many species, however, are green, brown, yellow, black, or red due to the presence of additional pigments.

Most cyanobacteria do not develop in the absence of light (they are obligate phototrophs), but others may if there is a sufficient supply of glucose to function as a carbon and energy source.

In addition to being photosynthetic, many cyanobacteria species can “fix” atmospheric nitrogen, which means they can convert the gaseous nitrogen in the air into chemicals that living cells can utilize. The filamentous species with specialized cells known as heterocyst’s are particularly effective nitrogen fixers. The heterocyst’s are thick-walled, oxygen-impermeable cell inclusions that provide the anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment required for the nitrogen-fixing enzymes to function. Nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria are frequently produced in rice fields in Southeast Asia, removing the need for nitrogen fertilizers.

Cyanobacteria are the biggest prokaryotic organisms, ranging in size from 0.5 to 60 micrometers. They are extensively spread and exceedingly numerous in fresh water, where they may be found as members of many species.

Cyanobacteria thrive in some of the most hostile settings known to man. They can be found in hot springs, frigid lakes beneath 5 metros of ice, and on the bottom surfaces of many desert rocks. Cyanobacteria are often among the first organisms to colonies exposed rock and soil. Cyanobacteria and other creatures form several forms of partnerships. Certain species, for example, create mutualistic relationships with fungus, resulting in the formation of composite creatures known as lichens.

Cyanobacteria reproduce asexually by binary or multiple fission in unicellular and colonial forms, or filamentous species fragmentation and spore generation.. Cyanobacteria may proliferate at an explosive pace under suitable conditions, generating dense concentrations known as blooms. A body of water can be cultured by cyanobacteria blooms. As an example,


Anabaena is a genus of nitrogen-fixing blue-green algae with beadlike or barrel-like cells with intermittent larger spores (heterocyst’s), which can be found as plankton in shallow water and on wet soil. Solitary and colony forms exist, with the latter resembling a closely related genus, Nostos. Anabaena can develop water blooms in temperate latitudes throughout the summer months.

Blue-green algal blooms

The term “bloom” refers to an aggregation of algal cells that discolors the water, forms scums, produces unpleasant tastes and aromas, affects fish populations, and reduces water quality. Decomposing algae can also deplete oxygen levels and cause fish fatalities.

Blue-green algae species may dominate and proliferate abundantly in water when:

  • Nutrient levels, notably phosphorus and nitrogen, are enough to support population expansion; nevertheless, the nitrogen-to-phosphorous concentration ratio is low.
  • The water is quiet and there is little turbulence (lack of mixing).
  • For a week or so, weather patterns remain constant when the weather is warm (but blooming can occur in milder temperatures as well).

Nutrient levels, notably phosphorus and nitrogen, are enough to support population expansion; nevertheless, the nitrogen-to-phosphorous concentration ratio is low.
The water is quiet and there is little turbulence (lack of mixing).
For a week or so, weather patterns remain constant when the weather is warm (but blooming can occur in milder temperatures as well).

Problems with blue-green algae

A variety of environmental criteria must be met for an algal bloom to form. These include sunshine, nutrients, and weather and flow conditions that cause the water to separate into layers, generally with a layer of warm top water that does not mix with a cooler deeper layer.

From spring to October, blue-green algae blooms on the heated surface layer of a water body that appears in Australia’s inland rivers.. Blue-green algae have gas pockets that keep them from sinking, allowing them to stay in the surface layer and access the plentiful light at the water’s surface, resulting in fast development.

blue green algae

Potential risks

Toxins may be created if blue-green algae proliferate in large quantities, producing health concerns for people, domestic animals, and livestock that come into contact with the algae.

Recreational users should avoid coming into contact with the algae. Some persons who have swum through or consumed algal scum have reported skin and eye irritations, nausea, vomiting, muscular weakness, or cramping.

Blue-green algal outbreaks can result in:

  • negative consequences on human health
  • cattle death domestic animal and wildlife scents fish kills
  • Closure of drinking or recreational water storages raises water treatment expenses.

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