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By Dan McBride

From Fall 2009 Forum

In an article called "State lakes, local ponds plagued by potentially harmful bacteria" written for the Democrat and Chonicle in upstate New York, staff writer, Steve Orr, writes about about cyanobacteria in simple terms. This bacteria, he writes, are "sometimes called blue-green algae because they can cluster in colorful algae-like film of mats that float on top of water…" He quotes Gregory Boyer, who is a chemistry professor at the State University College of Environmental Science and Forestry as well as "one of the Great Lakes region's top cyanobactera experts, "What we're seeing is a system out of balance." While the bacteria is often benign, it "sometimes grows explosively in a water body and release toxins, some of which are extremely potent." Yet, writes Orr, "No state or federal agency has adoped regulations to guard against the buildup of the toxins in drinking water."

Some of the most common toxins are called microcystins and some countries have set drinking water standards for some but the United States Envionmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not done this. The journalist said the EPA is considering this but also noted they have said the same thing since 1998! Because they have set no standards, is our public drinking water safe? Or even spring-fed bottled water?

Like most bacteria, cyanobacteria is very tiny but strains can be anywhere including the soil and in both salt and fresh water. They have been found on the tops of mountains as well as in the desert. They are photosynthetic which means they use the light energy they get from the sun and convert it into the food they need. Some cyanobacteria toxins cause neurological problems. Recent ressearch is looking at one cynobacteria toxin that is known as BMAA and linking it to some diseases such as Alzheimer's and a condition that is very similar to Parkinson's known as Parkinsonism.

The full article can be found at

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