Brain-Eating Bacteria Aren’t as Threatening as Toxic Algae Blooms

June 21, 2023 | Source: EWG | by Chloe Beittel

As summer heats up, news of fatalities from brain-eating amoeba seems to be everywhere – and people planning to spend time in and near local rivers and lakes might be concerned about contracting the dangerous infection. They may want to focus instead on toxic algae blooms, a much more common risk.

The single-cell amoeba Naegleria fowleri is found in warm fresh waters like lakes or rivers, especially during the hot summer months. It can infect the brain, and once it does, it’s nearly always fatal.

But it’s rare, despite the headlines.  A far more common and pressing problem is the toxic algae blooms that appear all over the U.S. during warm weather – and, increasingly, year-round. Toxic algae caused over 300 emergency room visits between 2017 and 2019 alone.

What are toxic algae blooms?

Toxic algae blooms occur when blue-green algae, minuscule organisms called cyanobacteria, grow because of excess nutrients in the water.