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Toxic Algae

March 13, 2006

Red tide is famous for turning the wataer off the Florida coast toxic and blood-colored. Other algal blooms are not as recognizable by color, but can be just as harmful. Some scientists think we don’t yet know just how dangerous they can be.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Algae to avoid. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Toxic algal blooms like red tide are getting bigger and more common worldwide. Off the California coast, sea lions have been consuming high doses of one of these toxins—and dying. Recently, a team from the Marine Mammal Center, including veterinarian Frances Gulland, found that sea lions that get lower doses of this toxin also suffer—from miscarriages and seizures.

FRANCES GULLAND (Marine Mammal Center):
So at low doses these animals aren’t having the big violent convulsions and dying, but they are having smaller seizures which gradually cause brain damage.

HIRSHON:
She says these findings are worrisome because people are biologically similar to sea lions and could experience similar problems from eating affected seafood. She says monitoring of seafood around the world needs to be made more sensitive to low levels of these harmful toxins.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.