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Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) – Division of Water Monitoring and Standards
HABs: "Spilled Paint"
A growing global problem, harmful algal blooms are not caused by true algae but rather by cyanobacteria that in many ways resemble and behave like algae. These cyanobacteria naturally occur in fresh water and can proliferate to unhealthful levels in sunlight and hot weather, forming dense mats resembling pea soup or spilled paint
What is a HAB?
A harmful algal bloom (HAB) is an algal bloom that can be dangerous to people, animals or the ecology. Some, but not all, HABs produce chemicals that can be toxic to humans and animals if ingested, inhaled, or if contacted by skin or mucous membranes. These toxins can also accumulate in fish and shellfish which can cause illness when either are consumed. HABs can occur in both the freshwater and marine water environments. For additional information on freshwater cyanobacterial HABs, please visit www.state.nj.us/dep/wms/bfbm/CyanoHABHome.html. For additional information on marine water-related HABs, please visit www.state.nj.us/dep/wms/bmw/phytoplankton.htm.
Exposure to cyanobacteria cells can cause a range of mild to moderate health effects, including rashes, allergy-like reactions, flu-like symptoms, gastroenteritis, respiratory irritation and eye irritation. Incidental ingestion of water containing the toxins these bacteria can produce, known as cyanotoxins, can result in more serious health effects such as liver toxicity and neurological effects. Children and pets are more vulnerable because they ingest more water in relation to their weight.
DEP has enhanced its Monitoring and Response Strategy and developed a color-coded health alert index to provide the public with strong and clear guidance on suitable recreational activities in freshwater lakes and other water bodies impacted by harmful algal blooms.