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Lake Erie Harmful Algal Bloom Health Information

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) in Lake Erie can produce toxins that can pose a risk to drinking water, cause skin irritation, and negatively affect wildlife, pets and livestock.

Effects on Humans

  • Contact with skin can cause rash, hives, or skin blisters (especially on the lips and under swimsuits).
  • Inhalation of water droplets can cause runny eyes and nose, a sore throat, asthma-like symptoms, or allergic reactions
  • Ingestion of the water can cause abdominal pain, headache, sore throat, nausea and vomiting, dry cough, diarrhea, blistering around the mouth, and pneumonia.
  • What you can do:
    • Contact your healthcare provider OR regional health department.

Effects on Animals

  • Ingestion of the water can cause lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, pale mucous membranes, death.
  • What you can do:
    • Seek medical treatment immediately if you suspect your pets or livestock have been exposed.

How can you Avoid Exposure?

  • Drinking Water
    • Health officials conduct routine monitoring to ensure that public drinking water is safe.
    • What you can do:
      • Follow drinking water advisories and contact your regional health department with questions.
  • Recreational Water Safely
    • You can still boat and recreate in Lake Erie waters, but be aware that HABs may be present.
    • What you can do:
      • If you can, plan your trip by checking NOAA's HAB Bulletin before you go.
      • Respect any waterbody closures announced by local public health authorities.
      • Avoid activities in areas where the water is discolored by algae or scums are visible.
      • Thoroughly wash yourself and pets after suspected contact with a HAB.
  • Recreational Fishing
    • Commercial fish from local restaurants and markets is safe to eat because it is tested for HAB toxins before it is sold.
    • What you can do:
      • Fillet the meat, thoroughly removing the skin, gills, and guts (which may have accumulated toxins from the HAB).
      • Rinse the fillet meat with clean water.
      • Thoroughly wash hands after filleting fish.

For Local Health Information

For Information on Blooms or to Report Suspected Blooms

A glass of water with algae.
A man holds a glass of water from Lake Erie during a harmful algal bloom with the drinking water supply intake for the city of Toledo in the background. Photo copyright Dave Zapotosky.


Revised: 08/08/2018
NOAA / National Ocean Service
Web site owner: Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services