Expert Insight: Professor Patricia Holden Comments on Toxic Algae Blooms

Article by Jane J. Lee from National Geographic on toxic blooms in Lake Erie.


Algae bloom in Lake Erie. Photo credit: Peter Essick


The toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie that provoked last weekend’s tap water ban in Toledo, Ohio—where nearly half a million people were told not to use water for drinking, cooking, or bathing—is a preview of similar problems to come around the world, scientists say, thanks in part to climate change.

Northwest Ohio’s water ban was lifted Monday morning, but experts say harmful algal blooms that can turn tap water toxic and kill wildlife are becoming more common in coastal oceans and in freshwater across the United States and around the globe.

A toxic algae bloom killed record numbers of manatees in Florida early last year. Another bloom put a record number of marine mammals into California rehabilitation centers earlier this year. They can also result in massive fish kills.

The blooms produce toxins that can cause neurological problems like paralysis and seizures in people, though such effects have been best documented in marine mammals and birds.

“Some of [the increase in blooms] can be attributed to global climate change,” said Timothy Davis, a research ecologist specializing in harmful algal blooms with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Read full article from National Geographic here.


Want to hear an expert’s opinion after reading this story? Listen to Bren professor, Dr. Patricia Holden’s commentary:

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