Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs)
What are Harmful Algal Blooms?
Spring is here and with warmer temperatures, under certain conditions, blue-green algae can rapidly build-up or bloom on the surface of reservoirs, rivers, creeks, lagoons, lakes and ponds. It is important to be aware of potential hazards associated with algal blooms. During algal bloom events, swimmers, boaters, and recreational users are advised to avoid contact with blue-green algae (BGA), also known as cyanobacteria. The algae blooms may produce toxins that can present a health hazard to humans and animals. The algae blooms can look like green, blue-green, white, or brown foam and scum floating on the water. Children are especially vulnerable because they play on the shoreline, drink more water than adults when swimming, and are of a smaller body size. Dogs are also more vulnerable to BGA poisoning because they tend to drink more water and lick algae off their fur. Toxins produced during algal blooms can be very toxic to dogs.
What are the signs and symptoms of HAB-associated illnesses?
- Rashes or other skin irritations.
- Allergy-like reactions, runny nose or sore throat.
- Toxins ingested in large amounts can cause sharp, severe stomach problems like diarrhea and vomiting, liver damage, numb limbs, tingling fingers and toes or dizziness.
- Weakness, staggering
- Difficulty breathing
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Death if not treated
What can I do to protect myself and pets from HABs-associated illnesses?
- Avoid wading and swimming in water containing visible blooms or water containing algae scum or mats, which are most often present at the shoreline.
- Take care that pets and livestock do not drink the water or swim through scums, mats, nor lick their fur after going in the water. Wash exposed pets in clean drinking water.
- If no algae scums or mats are visible, you should carefully watch young children and warn them not to swallow the water.
- Do not drink, cook, or wash dishes with untreated water.
- Consume fish only after removing guts and liver, and rinsing fillets in clean drinking water. Mussels should not be consumed.
- Get medical treatment right away if you think you, your pet, or your livestock might have been poisoned by blue-green algae toxins.
What is being done to control HABs in California and the United States?
Researchers and agencies at the local, state, tribal and federal level are involved in numerous efforts to both prevent HABs and illnesses associated with HABs, some of these include:
- Continuous monitoring for algal blooms and their associated toxins in water used for recreation, drinking, and commercial fishing.
- Helping to come up with ways to reduce nutrient loads in water.
- Ongoing education of the public, public health officials, health care providers, and veterinarians.
- Development of a national reporting system for HAB events and HAB-associated illnesses in humans.
What is being done about HABs in Long Beach?
Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine staff will be posting advisory signs at local lakes, lagoons and marinas that may be impacted by BGA or HABs cautioning swimmers, boaters and recreational users to avoid contact with BGA. The Parks Department is working closely with the Health Department and State Waterboard to develop a monitoring and management plan for the lakes.
Are there HABs in Long Beach?
Yes, with recent warmer weather, there has been an increase in algal blooms observed across the state in our lakes and other surface waters. Currently, there is a blue green algal bloom in the lakes at El Dorado Park in Long Beach. These blooms can be toxic in some cases and are often referred to as Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs).
The potential health risk from the HABs are generally divided into three levels: caution (low), warning (med) and danger (high). The current level of risk at the El Dorado Park Lakes is at the caution level. The risk to adults is low, however animals and small children are more susceptible if exposed to the cyanotoxinsor if it is ingested. The Parks, Recreation and Marine Department has posted signage to inform and educate residents on the issue.
Where can I learn more about HABs?
California Department of Public Health (CDPH)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
California Cyanobacteria and Harmful Algal Bloom (CCHAB) Network
Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA)
For additional information or questions call:
Vanna Kho at (562)-570-4306