Thu. Sep 28th, 2023


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Scorching Spanish beaches overrun by poisonous algae that attacks lungs

2 min read

Beachgoers in Spain now have to contend with toxic algae when they go for a splash, after surviving a brutal heatwave.

Europe's soaring temperatures have led to an increase in the growth rate of fume-releasing microalgae called Ostreopis.

Those fumes are capable of causing flu-like symptoms which can have an impact on the breathing of anyone who comes into contact with it.

READ MORE: Met Office's prediction on whether heatwave will return as Europe experiences 48C blast

Ostreopis clings onto sand and rocks and can be found on almost all beaches in Spain now.

Animals in the water have also been impacted by the growth of microalgae, which local media say has been responsible for a large number of deaths.

The issue was first reported by French officials, who noticed it growing in Biartitz, north of the Spanish coast of the Basque Country.

Swimmers, surfers and other beach users had all reported having issues with infected eyes, fatigue and nausea, according to the National Health Security Agency (ANSES).

Since 2021, French experts have reported some 1,000 cases where health problems are starting when people breathe in toxins from the microalgae left behind in the air.

Speaking to local media an algae expert from the Sea Science Institute in Spain (ICM-CSIC), Dr Magda Vila, said breathing it in can lead to cause flu-like symptoms like sore throats, sneezing and fevers.

Warmer, semi-tropical seas produced by climate change are thought to be breeding grounds for the microalgae to form, according to Dr Magda Vila’s colleague, Dr Elisa Berdalet.

Local offices could be forced to close beaches where there are bad outbreaks.

Meanwhile, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health And Safety (ANSES) has warned tourists to be vigilant.

ANSES spokeswoman Carole Catastini, said: "People with breathing problems have more risks of having symptoms. They have to avoid the coast when there is a blooming of Ostreopsis."

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