Algae is a type of plant-like aquatic organism. Although they do not have roots and stems, they share other similarities to plants such as their reproduction and ability to photosynthesize.
Environmentally, algae is very important because they produce oxygen and are a food source for many animals. Additionally, algae can be used to produce crude oil, pharmaceuticals and industrial products.
Nonetheless, not everything about algae is beneficial. Algae can become overgrown and cause ‘dead zones’ in water where other life has difficulty surviving. Additionally, algae can be difficult to clean out of drinking water sources, which results in higher costs for water treatment. Of paramount importance, however, is the ability of some algae to produce toxins.
Blue-green algae, also referred to as cyanobacteria, is a commonly discussed dangerous algae. Cyanobacteria have the ability to produce cyanotoxins. These are a specific type of toxins that can be poisonous to humans. Inhalation, ingestion and skin contact of cyanotoxins can cause numerous health problems including conjunctivitis, pneumonia, vomiting, diarrhea, and elevated liver enzymes.
At our lab, we provide multiple different testing options related to algae. From a water sample, we can identify which species of algae are present and provide counts. We can also test for the presence of microcystins, a type of cyanotoxin, as well as chlorophyll A and B, which can further indicate the amount of algae present.