'Killer Seaweed' Plagues French Beaches

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Travelers to France's Brittany region are being warned of toxic seaweed that is coating beaches and killing wildlife.

In the Saint Brieuc area of northern Brittany, a region in northwest France, dead wild boars have been found along local beaches. The suspected culprit? Rotting algae, reports news.com.au.

The poisonous blue-green algae releases toxic fumes as it decomposes. It's believed that breathing in these fumes caused the boars' deaths, and it can be the same for humans.

"This is a very toxic gas, which smells like rotten eggs," Brittany marine biologist Alain Menesguen told news.com.au. "It attacks the respiratory system and can kill a man or an animal in minutes."

"We are very worried for the health of visitors to beaches around here," Morieux mayor Jean-Pierre Briens said, urging travelers to use caution when going near beaches.

According to local government, the seaweed is above a health alert level, but below severe danger level.

Seaweed, a type of algae, is common along these beaches. It becomes toxic and releases hydrogen sulphide when it mixes with nitrogen waste runoff from pig and poultry farms.

"There is no doubt that farming is to blame," environmentalist Jean-Frangois Piquot told the Daily Mail. "Brittany has 5 percent of French agricultural land but 60 percent of the pigs, 45 percent of the poultry and 30 per cent of the dairy farms."

According to the paper, over the past decade, demands from local councils to control the waste produced by these intensive farming practices has fallen on deaf ears. The government's solution has consisted of hiring teams of workers to haul away the seaweed – which just comes back again.

In 2009 a member of a seaweed clearing team was poisoned by gas and taken to hospital in a coma. That same year a horseback rider passed out and his horse died after breathing the fumes.

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