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Toxic cyanobacteria grows in UK ponds during heat wave

Humans and other mammals may be miserable during Britain’s heat wave, but toxic cyanobacteria is enjoying the heat just fine.

Cyanobacteria – also known as blue-green algae – grows when it’s sunny and hot. In fact, new research is finding that algae populations of all types may explode when temperatures are high as a sort of cooling system for the planet.

But blue-green algae isn’t harmless. Large blooms of the toxic cyanobacteria can be deadly for pets and cause rashes, nausea, fever, headaches and other dangerous symptoms in humans who have been exposed.

Veterinarians warn people not to let their pets splash in ponds or drink the water during walks. Humans, especially children, should also avoid swimming in ponds with algae. The toxic cyanobacteria can also affect livestock.

Algae blooms – including cyanobacteria – have been discovered in four lakes in Cumbria in the recent heat wave, prompting the government to issue a warning. Swimmers should be cautious at the four lakes – Windermere, Ullswater, Coniston Water and Killington Reservoir – and report any sightings of the toxic cyanobacteria, the UK’s Environment Agency stated.

“Blue green algae is a completely natural summertime occurrence, however it can be toxic and as such, users of these lakes must remain cautious,” the agency’s Jim Ratcliffe said. “As well as having a negative effect on the appearance, quality and use of the water, it can also move around – you could see it one day, but it may have moved the next.”

The Environment Agency published a guide last year on what people should do if they see or are exposed to blue-green algae.

The agency would take samples at affected lakes weekly throughout the summer, Ratcliffe said. Staff will also test the water at any lakes where citizens report seeing the algae.

The algae problem should retreat once Cumbria’s rainy season begins again, the UK government’s statement said.

By Kyla Cathey, staff writer

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