Expats in Netherlands warned over swimming in toxic waters

Published:  23 Jul at 6 PM
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During the one of the hottest summers in living memory, Netherlands citizens and expats are being warned not to swim in canals and other tainted waters.

Over the past week, an increasing number of sightings of poisonous blue-green algae and reports of undesirable bacteria and botulism spores have hit Dutch media, with government warnings now being sent out. According to local water boards and the Rijkswaterstaadt, water temperatures are expected to increase during the rest of this week as the temperature continues to soar, thus resulting in more damage to water quality.

The authorities are suggesting those who are planning to swim should check Zwemwater.nl before setting off. The website itself is in Dutch, but it gives fairly easily understood water quality labels, including ‘recente control: in order’ – recently tested: fine’ and ‘waarschuwing’ – warning. ‘Zwemver bod/ negative zwemadvies’ announces a swimming ban and negative swimming advice, whilst the website’s interactive map of swimming sites allows swimmers to find official sites in their area and check their water quality.

The toxic blue green algae blooms are caused by microscopic bacteria in freshwater lakes, streams and ponds, and can be life-threatening to humans, wild animals and pets as some varieties produce nerve and liver toxins. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and dermatitis. They’re also deadly to fish as the blooms deplete the oxygen in the water as they die off. Eating fish contaminated and killed by blue green algae blooms can also harm human health. Botulism spores are found in low-oxygen environments such as soils and untreated river water, and also produce toxins dangerous to human health.
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