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State warns of toxic algae forming on Illinois lakes, rivers

According to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, "Surface water affected by blue-green algae often is strongly colored such that it can develop a paint-like appearance." It can be a health hazard, and even lethal. | Illinois EPA photo

SPRINGFIELD — State officials are warning anyone spending time on Illinois lakes and rivers to watch out for a type of rapidly growing algae that can cause illness and other health problems.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Health say the blue-green algae blooms known as cyanobacteria are starting to form on ponds and lakes statewide.

Some of the algae blooms produce toxic chemicals that can cause vomiting, rashes, coughing and wheezing in people and pets. Very young people, the elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system are particularly at risk.

Anyone using Illinois waterways should avoid contact with water that looks like spilled green or blue-green paint or that has “greenish globs” suspended just below the water’s surface.