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Breton beaches on alert over toxic green algae

Government criticised on plan to fight recurring pollution problem after green algae proliferation on Breton beaches reaches new records.

Government criticised on plan to fight recurring pollution problem after green algae proliferation on Breton beaches reaches new records.

For the past two decades, decomposing seaweed has been a health hazard on many beaches in Brittany.

Every summer, 50,000 to 70,000 m3 of green algae are washed up on Breton beaches. As the algae decay on the sand, they release Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S) - a toxic gas that can be fatal to humans and animals.

In 2009, a man and a horse died in different incidents in Brittany after breathing in toxic gases from decomposing green algae. These incidents prompted the French government to launch the Plan National de Lutte contre les Algues Vertes to fight the recurring health hazard on the Breton coast.

However, the €134 million government plan came under criticism after last summer proved to be one on the worst on record for the proliferation of toxic green algae.

Seaweed collection centres struggled to cope with the vast amounts of green algae collected by council workers across the country.

A number of beaches were reported to be less busy than usual and Brittany's tourism sector feared a strong decline in visitors after the media reported the death by gas poisoning of 36 wild boars on a beach in Morieux, in the north of Brittany.

The proliferation of green algae on the Breton seaside is linked to the nitrates and fertilisers used by the country's farming industry, particularly the poultry and pig farms.

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Celtic Countries is the online magazine for people who enjoy the Celtic nations, their natural splendour, culture, and lifestyles.

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