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Study: no infections from algae bloom exposure

by Dale Andreasen, Siskiyou Daily News 8/31/09
Yreka, Calif. - Supervisor Jim Cook wanted it made perfectly clear. In reaction to the results of a 2007 study that was published recently in Toxicon, the official journal of toxinology, it was noted that 81 persons who spent time in either Iron Gate or Copco reservoir showed no signs of infection from the microcystins released by algae blooms.

“I want to make sure that everyone understands: absolutely no toxins were found in any of the users’ blood,” emphasized Cook.

Director Terry Barber of the county’s Public Health and Community Development Department presented the information and provided copies of the scientific article at the special board meeting held Aug. 25.

Most of the meeting was spent discussing the recently released Klamath Basin Draft TMDL analysis and action plan and taking public comments.

Barber reported that, although some microcystins were found in the subjects’ nasal passageways, none had entered the blood streams of those tested. Several of the subjects reported swallowing water and swimming underwater with their eyes open during their recreational activities.

The Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Environmental Health, Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, Siskiyou County Department of Public Health, Karuk Tribe of California Department of Natural Resources and other groups took part in the study.

“The science is just not there,” Barber said. “They just don’t know.”

A debate is currently taking place about posting signs at the reservoirs warning swimmers and water sports enthusiasts about possible dangers of entering the water when the algae blooms appear.

“We might be struck by a meteor at any minute,” quipped Cook wondering aloud if, perhaps, warning signs should be posted about that possibility.

The warning signs are being posted by the Forest Service, Karuk Tribe and other groups along stretches of the river and at the reservoirs.   

“What authority do these groups have to post those signs on the river?” asked Board Chair Michael Kobseff.

“The county is on record as objecting to these postings,” Barber replied.

Supervisor Cook said he would like to contact the Forest Service and see why they are posting the warning signs along the river when there has been no case of toxins entering anybody’s blood stream.

The meeting was adjourned to the College of the Siskiyous Weed campus so the board could attend a Biomass Utilization Group workshop at noon.

The workshop was to be conducted to “create a vision of how to ensure healthy, sustainable forests and effectively utilize biomass in the county,” according to a release.

The next regularly scheduled board of supervisors meeting will take place Sept. 1 at the county courthouse in Yreka. The open session usually begins at 9 a.m.
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