|MadSci Network: Other|
Another example of "natural" not being the same as "healthy". The problem you are concerned with is the possibility of microcystin (a toxin produced by Microcystis another blue-green algae) being contained in harvests of the blue-green alga Aphanizomenon. This is a real concern which is noted by both producers and regulators. The companies which harvest and sell have apparently agreed not to harvest if the toxin level exceeds 1 ug/liter, according to the phycotoxin site. However, since microcystin accumulates and damages the liver, long term effects are not known. Dr. Carmichael reports on the Phycotoxin site that he finds some Microcystis in all the samples he has checked, so it is apparently always present, even though in low amounts. If you think someone has liver damage symptoms (jaundice is one) have them go to a doctor immediately. Another possibility for ilness from these products is the active ingredient in Aphanizomenon, anatoxin, which seems to act like both nicotine and cocaine, and hence may be very addicting to some people, and lead to intense withdrawal symptoms when it is removed. Incidentally, a common test for this toxin is whether it kills a rat within ten minutes following injection. For more info on potential allergic reactions see here. To contact scientists who study these and other toxins, try redtide at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, particularly Drs. Boyer, Carmichael, and Moore who specialize in these toxins. Is it really safe to eat Aphanizomenon? I would not put it in my body, but it has not been ruled unsafe by FDA. Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, this is a food supplement. A company must offer some evidence that it is safe, but the requirements are not as stringent as for a "food" or a "drug". FDA must show that it is unsafe for it to be removed. You might also try contacting the Oregon Department of Health, which is looking into this matter.
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