Harmful Algal Blooms and Cyanotoxins

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) affect water quality and endanger human and environmental health

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) affect water quality and endanger human and environmental health

Cyanobacteria Growth

If you’ve ever cleaned the sides of a fish tank, slipped on a slimy rock in the lake, or consumed an Omega-3 capsule, you’ve come into contact with algae. Algae, however, isn’t limited to those familiar aquatic organisms, but in fact covers many different organisms capable of producing oxygen through photosynthesis, including unicellular organisms like cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are naturally occurring components of freshwater and estuarine ecosystems.

Health Risks of Cyanotoxins 

While algae and cyanobacteria provide aquatic communities with many benefits, as the old saying goes, “everything in moderation.” Under certain conditions, these organisms can grow rapidly causing “blooms.” Blooms become problematic because algae and cyanobacteria also produce harmful compounds, such as cyanotoxins and aroma compounds, which pose health risks to humans and animals. When blooms threaten human and environmental health, they are referred to as harmful algal blooms (HABs).

Cyanotoxin analysis of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae)

Cyanotoxin analysis of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae)

Testing for Microcystins & More

Due to these health risks, the US EPA included nine cyanotoxins in the fourth round of its Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 4), in addition to a total microcystin test. The cyanotoxin chemical contaminants listed are: microcystin-LA, microcystin-LF, microcystin-LR, microcystin-LY, microcystin-RR, microcystin-YR, nodularin, anatoxin-a, and cylindrospermopsin.

Babcock Laboratories is fully accredited to perform all UCMR 4 analyses, including these cyanotoxin contaminants which require EPA Methods 546 (ELISA), 544, and 545. Babcock Labs will soon be accredited for these methods through ORELAP, having completed all criteria necessary to add them.

For more information about cyanotoxin testing services, contact ucmr@babcocklabs.com or call us now.

in the News