Public advised of potential health risks of blue-green algae in recreational water

New Brunswick Government

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, is reminding New Brunswickers to be aware of the potential health risks posed by blue-green algae that may be present in lakes and rivers used for recreational purposes.

According to a press release from the Department of Health, blue-green algae are a natural component of the province's aquatic ecosystems, but, under certain conditions, can increase in numbers to form blooms which can appear blue-green, green, red, brown or yellow in colour.

Not all blooms are harmful, but some can produce toxins which can cause skin, eye and throat irritation, with more serious health effects, such as gastrointestinal illness if the toxins are consumed.

Dr. Russell says, "Blooms can be unpredictable, so it is important that people always check the water before entering. If a bloom is present, it is recommended that you avoid swimming or engaging in other activities that may involve contact with the water."

Other safety advice includes:
- always supervise young children and pets in recreational waters
- do not swallow lake or river water
- bathe or shower immediately after swimming
- do not enter the water with open cuts or sores
- always wash your hands before eating

The Department of Health says algae mats along the shore of lakes and rivers can also be toxic and particularly harmful to dogs.

These mats look like clumps of vegetation and can appear black, brown or dark green in the water, and can be attached to rocks or aquatic vegetation or may be floating in the water.

On the shore, the mats may appear brown or grey once they have dried.

According to a press release, dogs are attracted to their odour and should not be permitted to eat vegetation or floating mats as they can be lethal if consumed.