Blooming awful - algae hits councils!

Published: Tue 20 Jan 2015 02:07 PM
Press release:-Blooming awful - algae hits councils!
"Trawling through DHBs around the country to invite them to our conference, it was amazing to find how many are coping with outbreaks of cyanobacteria (1,2) and resulting paralytic shellfish poisoning in their regions,(3) " said Susie Lees from the Food Matters Aotearoa team."If we don't act soon we could find ourselves unable to swim anywhere or gather food from our waters. These events are in part due to the conditions that result from today's farming practices.(4)"
Since the beginning of the Christmas public holidays, health warnings on lakes and rivers have become commonplace. Yes, it is also brought on by the long awaited arrival of the hot weather, now drought conditions that have reduced water levels. However, the primary cause of this health risk is run-off from increasing applications of artificial fertilisers.(5) Cyanobacteria has remarkable abilities to withstand and thrive under extreme geochemical and climatic conditions, as explained in scientific literature.
Tolerance to pesticides appear to give the cyanobacteria a competitive advantage (6)and climate change also encourages these algal blooms, exacerbated by nitrous oxide from synthetic fertiliser inputs.(7/8)
Because of this, and other serious health problems DHBs and environmental health officers from councils nationwide cope with, they have been invited to the Food Matters Aotearoa conference to hear evidence from our overseas experts on the problems of overuse of agrochemicals on New Zealand farms and parks and the ensuing impacts on public health. Our speakers will be discussing agroecological methods of farming, reduced quantities of inputs which results in better financial returns, living soils, healthier animals, communities and environments.
A variety of speakers from scientists, oncologists, to farmers experimenting with more sustainable methods will be speaking - see programme at
" The potential effects on public health of unsustainable farming practices have long been evident, but are swept under the carpet. For instance: when is Roundup in our waterways going to be subject to regular tests like cyanobacteria. ? Our speakers will tell how dangerous agrochemicals are on our food and to our health; yet still those lobbying government continue to deny it." says Susie Lees, from Food Matters Aotearoa.
1)Waikato DHB 23/12 Health warning issued for Lake Ngaroto near Te Awamutu; due to a cyanobacterial bloom. The lake has had a rise in the cyanobacteria biovolume to 4.5mm3/L. Biovolume is the measure used to decide when a health warning should be issued, with the cut-off value for a health warning set at 1.8mm3/L. Lakes Waikare, Hakanoa and Lake Rotoroa (Hamilton Lake) continue to have cyanobacterial health warnings in force.
2) Dr Alistair Humphrey Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, says the algae mats are detaching from the riverbed and accumulating at the sides of the river there is increased potential for animals or humans to be in contact and therefore the public should be more vigilant. “Exposure may cause skin rashes, nausea, stomach cramps, tingling and numbness around the mouth and fingertips,” Dr Humphrey says.“Boiling the water from the river does not remove the toxin and so water from the river should not be consumed,” Dr Alistair Humphrey says.
3) Toxic shellfish warning extended along coastline to Opito Bay 8 January 2015 Toxic shellfish warning extended along coastline to Opito Bay (31 December 2014) - Waikato District Health Board
4)Mitigating Harmful Cyanobacterial Blooms in a Human- and Climatically-Impacted World Hans W. Paerl 15 Dec 2014 "nutrient reductions for bloom control may need to be more aggressively pursued"
5) Page 9 Eutrophication of coastal and marine ecosystems, caused in part by intensive fertilizer use, can also impact human health through ecological changes like the worldwide increase in harmful algal blooms (Robertson and Swinton 2005). Algal blooms can lead to theproliferation of algal species that produce toxins. When the algae are ingested by shellfish this can result in neurological, amnesic, paralytic, and/or diarrheic shellfish poisoning in human consumers.
6) Effects of pesticides on freshwater diatoms.Debenest T, Silvestre J, Coste M, Pinelli E.Sensitivity to pesticides is known to be quite different among different diatom species. Eutrophic and small species are recognized for their tolerance to pesticides exposure.
7)Nature GeoScience11 March 2012 Trends and seasonal cycles in the isotopic composition of nitrous oxide since 1940 new ways for showing cause of nitrous oxide emissions
8) Agriculture. Nitrous oxide is emitted when people add nitrogen to the soil through the use of synthetic fertilizers. Agricultural soil management is the largest source of N2O emissions in the United States, accounting for about 75% of total U.S. N2O emissions in 2012. Nitrous oxide is also emitted during the breakdown of nitrogen in livestock manure and urine, which contributed to 4% of N2O emissions in 2012.

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