Health officials in Oregon say that they have found so-called blue-green algae and the toxins the cyanobacteria produce in Detroit Lake in Marion County. The discovery has prompted the Oregon Health Authority, or OHE, to issue a health advisory to anyone using water from the reservoir in any way.
While not actually closing the lake to the public, OHE, cautions swimmers not to swallow water and boaters not to inhale spray from the lake. Cyanobacteria produce toxins that that can damage your liver and brain. Municipal water plants can reduce the level of toxins in tap water but people who pull drinking water directly from the lake are urged not to do so while the advisory remains in place. Pour-through filters and even most whole-house filtering systems are ineffective at removing the toxins, say experts.
Boiling will also fail to neutralize the toxins.
And while you cannot absorb the toxins through unbroken skin, some people may experience a swollen rash when exposed to contaminated water.
The dangers of “blue-green” algae have been known for well over a century. In humans, exposure to the toxins can cause a variety of symptoms, including, says the CDC, things like:
- Intestinal upset
- Respiratory distress
- Allergic responses
- Skin irritation
- Liver damage
- Neurotoxic symptoms like tingling in fingers and toes
Fish can also be rendered unsafe by cyanobacteria. If you decide to eat fish taken from an area determined to be in an affected area of the lake you are urged to remove and discard all the fat, skin and organs then rinse the fillets in clean water.
Crayfish may be harvested but the fat and organs should be thrown out.
You should never eat clams or mussels taken from algae-affected areas at all. (It is actually illegal in Oregon to harvest mussels and clams from freshwater lakes, regardless of the presence or absence of algae blooms.)
Pets can also be sickend by cyanobacteria toxins. If you bring pets to the lake, you should not allow them to swim in the lake or drink the water.
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