Bay Journal

CDC launches nationwide reporting system for harmful algae blooms

Rise in frequency and severity linked to climate change, farming practices, wastewater and other environmental issues

  • By Jeff Day on June 24, 2016
Harmful algal bloom in New York lake. The Chesapeake Bay has seen a marked increase in harmful algae blooms over the past two decades, according to a study last year. (New York Department of Health)

Saying that hazardous algae blooms seem to be increasing in frequency and severity, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a national registry for reporting outbreaks, along with tips on how people can spot them and protect themselves and their pets.

“Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are an emerging public health issue that can contaminate the environment, drinking water, recreational water, and food,” the CDC said on its new web page devoted to the issue.  The agency linked the growth of such blooms to “climate change, farming practices, wastewater runoff and other environmental issues.”

Harmful algae blooms are a global phenomenon; a study released last year by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science reported a marked increase in these ecosystem-disrupting events in the Bay over the past 20 years, which it linked to excess nitrogen runoff from the watershed.

The goal of the CDC’s One Health Harmful Algae Bloom System is to collect information to support the understanding and prevention of blooms and illnesses associated with them. These algae can produce toxins that cause illness in people, pets, livestock and wildlife.

The voluntary reporting system will depend on state public health departments and any other “partners” to report blooms and their impact.

Public health authorities have long been required to report to the CDC human illness outbreaks—affecting two or more people--that result from hazardous algae blooms.

The new site, voluntary reporting effort will focus on the hazardous blooms themselves, any environmental and animal health problems, including bloom-related illnesses affecting only one person.

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About Jeff Day
Jeff Day covered government policy developments for more than 20 years at Bloomberg BNA, including Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts since 2009. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
Read more articles by Jeff Day

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