Playing in foam is usually fun—think bubble baths when you were a kid. But in the streets of one suburb of Bogota, Colombia, residents flee toxic clouds of the stuff wafting over from a nearby polluted river, bringing an unpleasant odor and suspected to be the cause of a variety of maladies, per the Guardian. The blanket of foam, which originates from the Balsillas River, drifts into yards, blocks roads, surrounds homes and businesses, and otherwise disrupts the lives of locals in Mosquera who try to stay as far away as they can. One of the worst parts of the foam is the stink it brings to Mosquera's neighborhoods. "The smell is terrible," one community leader told local media. "We've had to put up with this foam for a long time."
Environmental officials say the river has become contaminated due to the preponderance of people dumping detergents, waste, and chemicals into the water. The foam is churned up when the water becomes turbulent near bridges or when the river narrows, an environmental hydraulics expert told the AP. In a Twitter thread this week, Mosquera Mayor Gian Gerometta got more into the weeds on the matter, explaining that the problem is exacerbated during the rainy season. He also noted that, per the nation's Ministry of Health, "there are no effects on the population that are related to this environmental problem."
Others aren't so sure about that last part. According to the Guardian, some authorities say the foam may cause skin irritations and respiratory problems, which one local backed up, telling Reuters she's had to use an inhaler to deal with lung issues since the foam came to town, per the BBC. Officials are especially concerned about keeping kids away from the foam. "We do not yet totally know what this material is," Edwin Garcia, the director of the environmental lab for the Cundinamarca region, told local broadcaster Caracol. He added that a water treatment plant has been put in place and that authorities will continue to monitor the foam and attempt to clean it up. (Read more Colombia stories.)