A test recently developed by the Laboratory Services Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (DPHE) makes it easier to determine whether algal blooms are toxic or just colorful. Blue-green algae usually are harmless, but blooms may harbor toxins that can harm or sometimes kill humans and animals. They also can cause a bad taste or smell in drinking water, even after treatment.
While U.S. EPA does not regulate cyanotoxins produced by blue-green algae, last year it released health advisories for drinking water and now is developing guidelines for recreational waters. Water managers need quick, reliable identification techniques, but because more than one toxin may be present in a water sample, lab analysis is very specialized and costly to develop.
The DPHE lab is perfecting a new way to get the best results as quickly as possible. The lab recently demonstrated the new method of testing for cyanotoxins that is narrower and more specific than other methods, able to detect 11 cyanotoxins as compared to six in a different widely used EPA method.
More information is available here.