5OYS: How Iowa monitors blue-green algae

Local News

DES MOINES — For families across Iowa, swimming at certain beaches across the state isn’t being advised because of a dangerous toxin, known as blue-green algae.

The Iowa DNR has posted warning signs for beach areas at four different lakes. Blue-green algae is a major concern for pets, as it’s known to be deadly.

Both the IDNR and Iowa Department of Public Health follow the World Health Organization’s guidelines for monitoring cyanotoxins, like blue-green algae, in recreational waters.

The standard they use is: 20 µg/L (micrograms per liter) total microcystins from any composite beach sample.

In addition, state experts say beaches that exceed Iowa’s advisory threshold level for cyanobacteria toxins (20 µg/L total microcystins) will be posted with a warning sign, “Swimming is Not Recommended.”

The toxic algae can be green, blue, red, or brown. It can also look like foam or scum on the surface of the water. Often, it smells bad, but it may attract animals. If you see the algae, leave the area. Don’t let your dog drink or play in the water.

If your dog has already been exposed, rinse the animal immediately in fresh, clean water, wearing gloves to protect yourself as well. The toxins are also dangerous to humans. Symptoms caused by toxic algae exposure can begin within 15 minutes or take several days.

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