Wow, that is a really striking color and one heck of a prank.
Water in the Goldstream River turned fluorescent green in the late afternoon of December 29, 2010. Ministry of Environment, Langford fire department and parks officials were investigating, but it was suspected to be a prank. Photograph by: Courtesy Tyson K. Elder, Times Colonist
Alert: Chemical that turned Goldstream River green can cause allergic reactions
By Judith Lavoie, Times Colonist January 2, 2011
The chemical that turned Goldstream River green can cause allergic reactions in people, a medical health officer for Vancouver Island Health Authority said.
“It does not have a high toxicity, but it can, rarely, cause allergic reactions,” Murray Fyfe said Friday.
“People who do have a sensitivity should take precautions and avoid contact.”
The provincial Environment Ministry says it was fluorescein that found its way into the Goldstream River and a Langford fountain Wednesday, turning both fluorescent green.
Water samples were sent to Environment Canada’s Pacific Environmental Science Centre in North Vancouver for assessment, said Dan Gilmore, provincial Environment Ministry spokesman.
“Test results … confirm the substance causing the green colour in the river and the fountain was fluorescein,” Gilmore said.
“Fluorescein is a synthetic organic compound soluble in water and alcohol. It is widely used as a fluorescent tracer for many applications. The product itself and its products of degradation are not toxic.”
Based on the flow rate of the river, the probable concentration of fluorescein and lab results, Environment Ministry staff do not believe that fish or fish habitat were harmed, Gilmore said.
The chemical is usually used to trace leaks from septic tanks and water systems, and can be bought online.
Fluorescein is also used in medical diagnosis, specifically in opthalmology and radiology.
Guidelines warn it can cause reactions ranging from nausea and hives to death from anaphylactic shock.
As the culprits who dumped fluorescein in the river and fountain have not been found, it is not known how much they put in. However, as the concentration of fluorescein was probably more diluted than when used medically, the main concern is for the ecosystem, Fyfe said.
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