Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Did Tap Water Cause Lou Gehrig's ALS?

Yellowstone's Grand Prismatic Spring - colored by cyanobacteria.
Copyright (c) 2011 Wendee Holtcamp

I wanted to mention my latest article in Miller-McCune Magazine - a story I am particularly proud of - not only because I think it's a compelling and interesting article, but because the topic is one that I've been following for a long time and it has important implications for human health. I first met the subject of the article, Dr Paul Cox, when I was a graduate student in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Rice University when he gave a seminar there in 2004 on this topic and I was thoroughly wowed. Any story that involves fruit bats, pond scum and brain diseases has gotta be good, right? Paul is also a great guy, very passionate about helping people and the planet, a fantastic writer (check out his book Nafanua: Saving the Samoan Rainforest) and really a brilliant man.

In a nutshell - neurotoxins produced by cyanobacteria ("blue-green algae") may be causing neurodegenerative diseases, like ALS and Alzheimer's. Yep that's right! Read the story - you may not want to eat shrimp and crabs much longer! I wrote another article on this subject in 2009 for Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine - Blue-Green Mystery - and I have one coming soon on the topic for Environmental Health Perspectives (just turned it in - love that feeling!).

I hope this story helps bring more awareness to this important subject, which certainly merits more study and attention. And remember when I visited Yellowstone and Jackson Hole, Wyoming to report the story last September? So go read it, comment, Facebook it, Tweet it, and you will make me a very happy camper! Let me know what you think!

Was Lou Gehrig’s ALS Caused by Tap Water?

A toxic molecule found in pond scum may trigger neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS and Parkinson’s. Could a group of scientists, led by a botanist, hold the key to a cure?

The story begins...

Rudyard Kipling called it “Hell’s Half Acre,” a geothermal wonderland where people could fall through the Earth’s thin crust or be poached by steamy hot springs and geysers. Most visitors to Yellowstone National Park’s Midway Geyser Basin stroll the wooden boardwalks, but a few hike a short, steep side trail that reveals a bird’s-eye view of the entire valley, including Grand Prismatic Spring, which can be fully appreciated only from above. Mustard-yellow and vibrant-orange mats spread like tentacles from the turquoise pool. “Not even the most talented artist could imagine something as beautiful as that,” muses Sandra Banack, a biologist who studies cyanobacteria, the microbes that create the colorful mats — and that hold a toxic secret.

Click over to continue reading!


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a fascinating story. I haven't read it yet but plan to. The colors in your photo of the spring are amazing... is that a pretty true representation of how it looks in person (no fancy photoshopping etc)?

Unknown said...

Thanks - do let me know what you think after you read it! Yes believe it or not, that is a totally untouched photo. Grand Prismatic is a pretty famous hot pot. Gorgeous!!