France orders toxicity test on seaweed


June 18, 2010 Updated Aug 14, 2009 at 8:31 AM EDT

France has ordered toxicity tests to be carried out on the mounds of seaweed on the country's northern coast that have been blamed for the recent death of a horse, officials said Friday.

Potentially lethal fumes from the rotting weed have worried local residents and threatened the region's lucrative tourist industry.

The national institute for environmental threats (INERIS) will test levels of hydrogen sulphide (H2S) above the mounds of putrified green algae that have built up across the Brittany region, the environment ministry said.

It will also check for any other toxic components in the foul-smelling seaweed, the ministry said in a statement.

Part of the coastline has been declared off-limits as local authorities acknowledge they are unable to get rid of the decomposing seaweed that has washed up on shores in more than 80 communities around Brittany.

Green groups accuse President Nicolas Sarkozy's government of turning a blind eye to an "environmental cancer" caused by the algae and blame intensive farming for producing nitrates that feed the seaweed's toxicity.

Veterinarian Vincent Petit lost consciousness and his horse collapsed and died when they slipped on a patch of rotting algae near the beach of Saint-Michel-en-Greve on July 28.

Petit was pulled to safety by a crew of workers who happened to be nearby.

The horseman has since threatened to sue local authorities for reckless endangerment, spreading alarm in a string of coastal communities in Brittany's Cote d'Armor region.

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