Algae health warning issued

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NHS Tayside has issued a warning about potentially hazard blue-green algae which has been forming on local bodies of water.

The algae are tiny organisms which develop naturally in lochs, ponds, reservoirs, rivers and in the sea.

They are a common summer occurrence especially in waterbodies, which have been affected by agricultural, domestic or industrial discharges.

The algae can multiply during the summer months and discolour the water which then appears green, blue-green or greenish brown and, occasionally, they clump together to form a scum on the surface of the water.  

People and animals can be affected as a result of direct contact with water affected by blue-green algae and NHS Tayside is advising the public, especially people undertaking water sports, anglers and dog owners, to be alert to the blooms as temperatures rise.

“We routinely monitor levels of blue-green algae over the warmer months because of the potential health risk to people and to animals,” explained Dr Jackie Hyland, consultant in public health medicine for NHS Tayside.

“Contact with the algal scum or water close to it can cause skin rashes or eye irritation.

“If the water is accidentally swallowed, or affected fish eaten, then more serious health effects can include vomiting, diarrhoea, or pains in muscles and joints.  These symptoms tend to be mild, but in some cases, can be severe.”

“The risk to small animals like dogs is significant over the summer months as they tend to drink more water in the heat and may eat shoreline algal crusts.  Dog owners should keep an eye on their pets, especially if they come into contact with water which could be affected.

“The public should be reassured that public water supplies used for drinking water are always treated to prevent any harmful effects to health due to blue-green algae.”

Where monitoring reveals higher than acceptable levels of algal bloom, warning notices will be posted at the affected water bodies.

Anyone who finds a loch, pond or river which they suspect is affected by blue-green algae and which is not displaying a warning sign, should contact the local environmental health service for Angus on 08452 777778.