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Harmful Algal Blooms Emerging toxic concerns and knowledge to protect ecological and human health.
Dated : 2019-04-26
By -Dr. Piyoosh Kumar Babele, Research Scientist , USA
   Cyanobacteria are major biomass producer in aquatic ecosystems, however tremendous cyanobacterial growth can cause ecological and public health concerns. Rapid and excessive cyanobacterial growth is more commonly referred to as a “bloom”. The prevalence and rapid expansion of harmful cyanobacterial blooms (Cyano-Hbs) in aquatic ecosystems especially in freshwater symbolize a major ecological and human health problem globally. Human activities that disturb ecosystems seem to play a role in their more frequent occurrence and intensity. Habitat loss, eutrophication, acidification, chemical contamination, global warming, and exotic species are main concern factors that directly or indirectly favour the Cyano-Hbs formation. Cyanobacterial species, remarkably resistant to extreme environments can produce “cyanotoxins”, which are hazardous to live beings. They differ in molecular structure and toxicological properties, generally grouped according to their toxicological targets such as liver, nervous system, skin, and gastrointestinal system. 
Similar too many other developing countries close to the equator, a large population of poor people in India depend on the sea and river as a source of food and income. Exports of farmed fishes, prawns, and other aquatic sources are an important part of the Indian economy. Mussels and oysters are often the main sources of protein-rich food for many poor people. Indian population very frequently depends on the freshwater ponds and lakes for drinking, bathing, laundry, recreation, and farming. This progressive drift is serious fear, as it may have harmful impacts on the biodiversity, performance of aquatic food webs and threatens the use of affected waters bodies for drinking, bathing, fishing, and other related activities. Indian population can be exposed to cyanotoxins in several ways like (a) ingesting infected water, and food e.g., agricultural products, fish, prawns, and mollusks (b) direct skin (dermal) contact with water containing cyanotoxins (c) inhaling or ingesting of aerosolized toxins during swimming or other recreational activities and (d) by drinking water infected by a toxic cyanobacteria bloom. Although confirmed cases of bad health impacts in humans via cyanotoxins are exceptional, however, some incidents have been recognized worldwide. 
The challenges that Cyano-Hbs pose to human health is a severe concern; thus a deep understanding of their dynamics and proper management is utmost crucial for the preservation and sustainable development of functional ecosystems. Expansions of wastewater research and management programs are necessary to check or control the prevalence of Cyano-Hbs to maintain ecological development and sustainability. Public awareness about environmental sustainability and ecosystem health should be increased. Serious steps should be taken up by policy or decisions makers to develop and implement strategies and environmental protection laws against anthropogenic environmental pollution. Moreover, numerous environmental protection programs should be launched by environmental protection agencies. Both the government and non-government organization (NGO), should work on spreading public knowledge about global warming, environmental pollution, and occurrence of Cyano-Hbs. 
 
Figure: Harmful cyanobacterial bloom (Cyano-Hbs) and the bloom-forming species: (A) showing the water bodies contaminated by the excessive cyanobacterial bloom (adapted and modified from Wikipedia (https://www.wikipedia.org/); (B) Microphotographs showing the morphology of different type of cyanobacterial species (adapted and modified from the ocean data centre.

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