Please invest in Our Daily Planet today, by making a one time or monthly contribution.
We do not charge our readers a subscription fee for our content. We want to continue to grow our readership, particularly among millennials and public servants. Voluntary contributions from readers will help us employ interns and freelance journalists, expand our content, and reach a larger audience.
In fact, a report from the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) found cases of toxic algae in every state except Alaska. Last year the EWG saw 400 cases, an extreme increase from 2010 when the organization started keeping track. This year, as of July, the number of cases has skyrocketed by 46 percent compared to the same period last year.
Why This Matters:
Algal blooms produce toxins that can be dangerous to people and wildlife. Saxitoxin, for instance, causes paralysis, and the most widespread algal toxin, microcystin, can cause rashes, diarrhea, sore throat, and vomiting. Long-term, microcystin can cause liver failure and is linked to cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Algal toxins are also suspected in the recent death of a family of three along the Sierra National Forest trail.
Algal blooms are especially harmful to waterside communities. This summer in Florida, both coastal and lakeside towns have had to shut down beaches after blooms poisoned fish and beachgoers. The outbreak threatened Floridians’ quality of life and the state’s tourism and fishing economies.
“The scariest part is that it’s really hard to predict toxins—you can’t tell if they’re toxic by looking at them, so you can’t just avoid them, and we don’t understand what triggers a bloom to be toxic,” Anne Schechinger, senior economic analyst at the EWG, told Outside. “We’re really at the beginning of the science.”
Why Is It Happening?
Not all algal blooms are toxic, but an increasing number of them are. They have been exacerbated by industrial farming and climate change. Fertilizer, animal-manure runoff, stormwater runoff, and septic water release phosphorous and nitrogen into the waterways. Phosphorus used in commercial agriculture has put so many nutrients into ecosystems that the Environmental Protection Agency called it “one of America’s most widespread, costly, and challenging environmental problems.”
Stopping the Spread: NOAA has begun forecasting harmful algal blooms in Florida and Maine and plans to expand to the Pacific Northwest. Satellite mapping has also made it easier to locate the sources of pollution causing the blooms. Some states, like Minnesota, have passed laws that require barriers between farms and waterways.
If the federal government doesn’t take action, this crisis will continue to worsen. Algal blooms cost the U.S. an estimated$2.2 billion each year, and that number will balloon as blooms get more pervasive.
By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor In another significant blow to the Pebble Mine project in Alaska, the EPA has asked a federal court to allow Clean Water Act protections for parts of Bristol Bay, a body of water that stands to be decimated if the project continues. Environmental advocates and Alaska Native tribes hope […]
By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer California’s record-breaking drought is not just a result of climate change — it’s also making climate change worse. According to a new study, population growth and energy-sapping water projects have driven up emissions and slowed down decarbonization campaigns. As it gets more and more difficult for Californians to rely […]
By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor A federal judge has thrown out a Trump administration environmental rollback that scaled back federal protections for the nation’s streams, marshes, and wetlands. Despite support from farm and business groups, the federal judge ruled that the rollback could lead to “serious environmental harm.” Environmental groups are celebrating the decision, which will reinstate protections for […]
Our Daily Planet is your daily dose of the stories shaping our world and the ways that you can take action. From the climate crisis to the protection of biodiversity, if these issues matter to you then please subscribe & stay informed!
Your privacy is Important! We promise never to use your email address to send you spam or advertisements.