• Mae McGuire

"Blooms" are booming, but we're not talking about flowers.

California's highly-prized floral superblooms don't appear to be on the calendar this year. It looks as though we'll be getting stuck with algal blooms instead, and that's a pretty big bummer. But before you scoff at the thought of algae being a big deal, think twice. That slimy green stuff isn't just annoying to clean out of your fish tank—it can be straight up toxic.



The prevalence of Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB) has been on the rise throughout California and the United States over the last few years (NRDC). Since HABs thrive in warm temperatures, this summer is shaping up to follow suit and coat our water bodies in a blanket of algae. The green culprit is known as cyanobacteria, which can present in a variety of colors and textures (CA DWR).


So why are cyanobacteria algal blooms such a big deal? They release dangerous neurotoxins, which have the potential to harm people and animals in moderate to severe ways. Exposure to toxic HABs can leave you with eye, nose, throat, and mouth irritation, vomiting, ulcers, diarrhea, and more (CA DWR). While these symptoms are uncomfortable, but bearable for human adults, your furry friends may be much worse off. Symptoms of toxic HAB exposure can cause your pet to have seizures, or even lose their lives.


"Dogs and small children are most likely to be affected by HABs due to their smaller body size and probability to play in the water for longer periods. Animals are especially susceptible to the toxins because they tend to drink while in the water and lick their fur afterwards."

—California Department of Water Resources



California has an abundance of natural water recreation locations, and we all love to cool off in our local lake from time to time. But since HABs are difficult to spot, staying safe can be a challenge. That being said, there are some precautions you can take to make sure you stay safe from HABs according to the CA Dept. of Water Resources:

  • follow all posted advisories

  • avoid algae and scum in the water and on the shore

  • watch children and pets closely

  • don't let pets go into the water, drink the water, or eat scum and other algal accumulations both in the water or on the shore

  • do not drink the water or use it for cooking

  • wash yourself, your family, and your pets with clean water after playing in the water

  • if you catch fish, throw away guts and thoroughly clean fillets with tap or bottled water before cooking

  • avoid eating shellfish from affected areas

  • know current reservoir statuses (drought efforts may affect likelihood of HABs developing)

For an interactive map that estimates which water bodies could be harboring toxic algal blooms, check out this website. Spring flowers may have come and gone, but that doesn't mean natural phenomenon isn't blooming. Harmful Algal Blooms pose a serious health risk to you, your children, and your pets. Stay safe out there!



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