METAIRIE, La. - Bright pink clusters that are being found in local waterways have many wondering whether they're harmful.
"I've never seen this stuff before. I never knew what it was," said Glenn Olivier, who wonders what the pink clusters are that have formed along a West Esplanade canal. "I thought they were some type of caterpillar or some type of eggs."
Researchers said they are channeled apple snail eggs, which carry a toxin that can cause serious health issues. The species is native to Central and South America; however, they have made their way into local waterways.
"It's been about one year, less than a year, that I've seen them and they're getting worse," Olivier said.
Dr. Martin O'Connell, Director of the Nekton Research Laboratory at the University of New Orlean's Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences, said it's likely the snails were introduced to the area by being released from someone's aquarium.
"We're seeing the numbers increase. They're popping up in more places. We thought it had been confined to the Westbank, but now the North Shore, City Park and West Esplanade canal, O'Connell said. "They lay bright pink eggs outside the water to keep them from predators in the water, and they look like a toy, so you would be concerned that a child, as children do, poke at things and stick it on a stick and get that in your mouth. It could be an issue."
O'Connell said the eggs are coated in a slime-like substance and carry a harmful parasite called rat lungworm.
"It's an intermediate host with a rat, and if humans get this into their bodies, possibly, it could get into their brains and cause a lot of problems, maybe even coma, maybe even death," O'Connell said.