Cookie policy: This site uses cookies (small files stored on your computer) to simplify and improve your experience of this website. Cookies are small text files stored on the device you are using to access this website. For more information please take a look at our terms and conditions. Some parts of the site may not work properly if you choose not to accept cookies.

Join

Subscribe or Register

Existing user? Login

Swimmers beware

  • Print
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Save
  • Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF

Having developed a passion for open water swimming, I have become aware of the health risks of blue-green algae. Known also as cyanobacteria, these micro-organisms are naturally present in water, usually in low numbers, but last year they became abundant enough in Windermere to lead to the cancellation of the Great North Swim.

Cyanobacteria have the distinction of having been found among the oldest fossils on earth of more than 3.5 billion years of age. They are one of the largest and most significant groups of bacteria. Some oil deposits are attributed to their activity, and they are providers of nitrogen fertilisers in the cultivation of rice and beans. Cyanobacteria have also helped to shape the ecological history of our planet in that they generated the oxygen atmosphere on which we depend.

However, some cyanobacteria that can form algal blooms on water produce various toxins, including neurotoxins, hepatotoxins and tumour promoters, such as microcystins. Exposure to blue-green algae on the skin, for example through swimming, may cause a rash or the skin to blister, particularly on the lips or under swimsuits. Inhaling affected water can cause runny eyes and nose, sore throat, asthma-like symptoms or allergic reactions. Swallowing water that contains cyanobacteria can cause acute severe gastroenteritis, liver or kidney toxicity, which may take several days to develop, or neurotoxicity, symptoms of which can appear within 15 minutes of exposure and include dizziness, numb lips and tingling extremities. In dogs, swallowing these toxins has also been linked to convulsions and death.

Have your say

For commenting, please login or register as a user and agree to our Community Guidelines. You will be re-directed back to this page where you will have the ability to comment.

  • Print
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Save
  • Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF

From: Beyond pharmacy blog

Take a look here for thoughts and musings beyond the pharmacy realm

Newsletter Sign-up

Want to keep up with the latest news, comment and CPD articles in pharmacy and science? Subscribe to our free alerts.