Major Warning Issued On
Blue-Green Algae Products
The Canadian Press
EDMONTON (CP) - Citing high toxin levels, Health Canada is urging adults to cut back on food supplements containing blue-green algae and to stop giving them to kids.
"Due to the potential health risk, consumers who choose to use products containing blue-green algae, especially those from natural lakes, should do so only for a short period of time, as required, and discontinue their use in children," said Health Canada in a release Wednesday.
Products containing blue-green algae are sold in pharmacies and health food stores as food supplements in tablet, capsule or powder form.
The advisory was prompted by the findings of Dr. Charles Holmes, a researcher at the University of Alberta. He said he found some blue-green algae supplements had toxin levels that exceeded safety levels set out by Health Canada.
The toxins, called microcystins, accumulate in the liver and can cause serious damage over time. Not all algae produce microcystins, so all products would have to be tested.
"It's targeted specifically to the liver, where it causes massive liver failure, liver hemorrhage and in severe cases, would cause death," Holmes said.
Children are considered to be at greater risk for liver and gastrointestinal damage due to their lower weight.
The algae are bacteria that grow in shallow, warm, water. They naturally produce toxins as part of their metabolic process. They can be harvested from outdoor ponds or natural lakes.
Some of the blue-algae food supplement products are marketed to treat children with Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD, but Health Canada spokeswoman JoAnne Ford said there is no evidence that such products work against ADD.
Ford said Holmes' findings have prompted Health Canada to do a national survey to determine which and how many products contain the blue-green algae. Health Canada will also test products to determine toxin levels. The survey is to take several months.