Did drinking water kill Lou Gehrig?

29 December 2011

Toxic blue-green algae (Anabaena solitaria) in Theewaterskloof Dam (Villiersdorp, South Africa): Photo: Bill Harding

A controversial news headline – one that appears in the January 2012 issue of Miller-McCunes publication.  It relates to the possibility that a toxin, produced by all types of blue-green algae, may be a factor in neurodegenerative disease (ALS, Parkinsons and Alzheimers) (see Droplets post of several months back here).

Many have scoffed at this hypothesis – but the fact that some 20-odd universities and research labs are working on this suggests that it has more than a passing significance. Can we afford to ignore the possibility?  People living in Gauteng (South Africa) certainly cannot.

My many many years as an algologist working with blue-green algae has taught me that we ignore these organisms – and how they may affect or be affecting our health, at our peril.  I continue to marvel at how some regard cyanobacterial extracts as health potions – despite worrying evidence to the contrary.

Bottom line is that we continue to create massive growth chambers, read “wastewater polluted dams”, for these ancient, yet highly-specialized and enigmatic bacteria – and pretend that all is well with the world.  Why do water managers not adhere to ‘prevention is better than cure?’

So, why is an obvious problem ignored?  Well, the reasoning is both simple and idiotic:  If the government admits to eutrophication being a problem – with all the added warts and blemishes that eutrophication embodies, then the question arises: “why have you not done something about a problem that you have known about for years?”.  Secondly, it then becomes a huge financial stick to be beaten with – as such an admission implies that the main polluting sources, i.e. wastewater, need to be brought into line.  This brings in the issue of massive new and additional costs, i.e. the reason why nothing has been done about eutrophication at all.  Had something been done 20-odd years ago, we would not be where we are now (45% of our water resources dangerously polluted) – and it would have cost very little to achieve it.  Now its astronomical.

Same logic with BMAA and its possible link to Alzheimers and etc:  South Africa has been aware of the possible risk since 2004.  If the findings from one or more of the 20 universities studying the problem conclusively-link BMAA to neurodegenerative disease, then immediately the use of water from a frightening number of South African water resources will be rendered unfit for human consumption – without VERY expensive treatment.  That stick I mentioned has now become VERY much larger and more painful!

Allowing water resources to become polluted is a crime against humanity.

And algal toxins are but just one group of ’emerging toxicants of global concern….’ !  Search Droplets for more information on this topic

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