SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WMBD) — The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) are warning of possible harmful algal blooms in the state waterways this summer.

According to a press release, when the temperatures begin to rise, Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae which naturally occur within lakes, streams, and ponds will experience rapid expansion which is referred to as a bloom.

While most blooms are considered harmless, some can produce toxic chemicals that can cause sickness or other health effects.

Local officials are advised to put up signage to warn residents to avoid contact with affected water when a bloom producing toxins has been confirmed.

Not all blooms are reported to the state, so residents are encouraged to avoid water that:

  • Looks like spilled, green or blue-green paint.
  • Has surface scums, mats, or films.
  • Has a blue or green crust at the shoreline.
  • Is discolored or has green-colored streaks.
  • Has greenish globs suspended in the water below the surface.
PHOTO CREDIT: Illinois EPA

Young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are at the highest risk of the adverse effects of algal toxins. Individuals can be exposed to the toxins via direct skin contact, ingestion of contaminated water, or inhaling water droplets in the air.

Symptoms of exposure can include:

  • Rashes
  • hives
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • coughing
  • wheezing

More exposure can lead to more severe symptoms.

Anyone who believes they were exposed to algal toxins and are showing symptoms should contact your health care provider or call Illinois Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. Pet owners should immediately contact their veterinarians if their pets are showing symptoms after possible exposure.

Residents or local officials who would like to report a possible cyanobacteria bloom can go to the Illinois EPA’s website.