A prolonged heat wave in the central U.S. is fostering the growth of a dangerous form of algae in lakes and ponds, threatening swimmers and livestock and scaring away tourists during the busy summer season.
Blue-green algae are actually bacteria that produce toxins harmful to humans and livestock. It flourishes in warm, stagnant, sunlit water. This year’s heat wave combined with Oklahoma’s worst drought since the Dust Bowl have created what one water official called a “perfect storm” for its growth.
Officials have issued a series of warnings, telling boaters and swimmers at lakes in Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska to avoid contact with the toxic gunk. The issue attracted national attention earlier this month when Republican Sen. James Inhofe blamed a respiratory illness on a swim in one Oklahoma lake.
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