This problem is a focus of the website Circle of Blue. They say, “Expansive blooms of toxic algae are poisoning drinking water, closing beaches, and creating oxygen-deprived aquatic “dead zones” around the globe. Driven by excess amounts of nutrients washing into waterways from expanding agriculture and cities, the blooms represent a growing water quality crisis that could further deteriorate under climate change.” (Circle of Blue) On this website, there are several stories about algal blooms and human health.
In 2013, the International Joint Commission for the Great Lakes issued a literature review citing problems that can arise from these algal by-products. (IJC) This scholarly research reports that “… many (blue-green algae blooms) produce toxic secondary metabolites, the cyanotoxins, which can cause serious, acute intoxication in mammals (including humans) affecting the hepatopancreatic, digestive, endocrine, dermal, and nervous systems. This report addresses the objective to assess the human health impacts associated with harmful algal blooms (HABs) especially those associated with blooms of cyanobacteria or blue-green algae (cyanoHABs).”
Algae blooms are very common on the Upper Mississippi and its tributaries, which provide drinking water for millions of Americans. Environmental degradation resulting from excessive nutrients is very visible; it is time that we also begin to examine the human health impacts. These impacts have been documented extensively in the Great Lakes region, so we know it can happen here as well.