For Immediate Release

Significant Health Risks Associate with Cyanobacterial Blooms, Scientists Claim

August 15, 2018, Jackson, WY: Massive cyanobacterial blooms associated with the emergency release of nutrient-laden Lake Okeechobee water down the St. Lucie river in the summer of 2016 exposed Florida residents to a potent toxin called microcystin which is known to cause liver cancer.

"It is a reasonable prediction that the cohort of Florida State citizens exposed to the 2016 Florida cyanobacteria bloom incident .  .  .  may experience an increased lifetime risk of liver cancer and/or hepatic dysfunction requiring hospitalization or transplantation," cyanobacterial expert Dr. James Metcalf and his colleagues report in a paper published today in the British journal Water Policy.

 Dr James Metcalf samples water from a cyanobacterial bloom in Florida

Dr James Metcalf samples water from a cyanobacterial bloom in Florida

The malodorous 2016 cyanobacterial blooms, referred to as "guacamole" by some residents, were associated with fish kills and the deaths of 11 manatees in the St. Lucie River and Stuart area, but insufficient warning was provided to citizens about potential human health impacts the paper claims.  "Neither the State of Florida, nor the U.S. government, currently has water quality criteria or alert levels for cyanotoxins, such as microcystin," Dr. Metcalf and his colleagues find.

"We collected cyanobacterial samples from the area as part of our ongoing research into possible links between neurodegenerative illness and cyanobacterial toxins and were relieved to find only very low amounts of the neurotoxin we are studying ," Dr. Paul Alan Cox, Executive Director of the Brain Chemistry Labs said. "However, when we analyzed the samples in our laboratory for microcystin, we were stunned to find that the concentrations of microcystin were 10,000 times greater than that allowed by the state of Ohio for recreational waters."

Cyanobacterial blooms associated with Lake Okeechobee are a recurring problem in Florida. Metcalf and other researchers from the Brain Chemistry Labs, a not-for-profit research center  in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, are once again collecting samples from the current cyanobacterial blooms on the east and west coasts of Florida.

Contacts: Dr. James Metcalf, telephone: 307 734 1680, james@ethnomedicine.org
Marilyn Asay, telephone: 801 375 6214, marilyn@ethnomedicine.org