Harmful Algal Bloom (HABs) Testing

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are overgrowths of algae in water that can produce dangerous toxins affecting the health of people, animals, and the environment. These blooms can occur in both fresh and marine waters, often appearing as scum on the surface or discoloration of the water. Understanding and addressing the factors contributing to HABs is critical for maintaining water quality and safeguarding public health and ecosystems.

Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are photosynthetic organisms naturally found in water bodies that play a significant role in the occurrence of harmful algal blooms. Blue-green algae can proliferate and ‘bloom’ very quickly in response to warm temperatures, sunlight, and high levels of nutrients. Algal blooms can deplete oxygen and block sunlight from other organisms, and some can produce powerful toxins that can cause illness and even death to wildlife, livestock, pets, and even people.

In addition to producing toxins, these harmful algal blooms can produce taste and odor issues in public water supplies. Recommended maximum levels of the most common of these algal toxins in drinking water and waters used for recreation are extremely low, making many of these compounds among the most deadly toxins known to man. These problems can be caused by several genera of algae, including Microcystis, Planktothrix, Dolichospermum (formerly Anabaena), and Cylindrospermopsis. EnviroScience is experienced in the analysis of algae/cyanobacteria populations and the quantification of common algal toxins.

Click here for more information on the effects of cyanobacteria on animals and available testing for ponds, lakes, and other recreation areas for pets.

Harmful Algal Bloom Services:

Algae Toxin Testing via QPCR: NO GENE = NO TOXIN

A variety of environmental factors may determine whether a harmful algal bloom (HAB) is producing toxin(s) at a given time and place, and a bloom that is not producing toxins one day may produce them the next. Genomic cyanobacteria screening via DNA-based Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction, or qPCR, helps determine the potential for cyanotoxin production. It is possible to have a gene present without cyanotoxin production; however, if cyanotoxins are being produced, the gene must be present. The presence or absence of toxin-producing genes in an algae bloom can help determine whether further testing for algal toxins via Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) tests or another method is warranted.

qPCR tests for the following toxin genes are available from EnviroScience:

  • Microcystin/Nodularin
  • Cylindrospermopsin
  • Saxitoxin

A test for Anatoxin is under development and is expected to be available soon.

In addition, qPCR can estimate the number of cyanobacteria present in a bloom using the 16S rRNA gene. Ran concurrently with the toxin DNA tests, this test reports the percent of the cyanobacterial bloom that is capable of toxin production.

Contact one of our HAB specialists at 800-940-4025 for more information on these tests.

Algae Toxin Testing via ELISA Method

ELISA tests are screening assays that detect specific groups of cyanotoxins. ELISAs have the ability to detect these toxins at extremely low levels in both surface water and drinking water. EnviroScience biologists provide rapid turnaround, with most samples being completed within 2 business days.

(including many toxins on the USEPA Candidate Contaminant List 3 (CCL 3))

  • Microcystin-LR
  • Anatoxin-a
  • Saxitoxins
  • Cylindrospermopsin 

Algae Identification and Enumeration

Algae and Algal Toxin Sampling

Simple Harmful Algal Bloom Sampling Kits

Algal B

Simple DIY Monitoring Kit

  • Sampling kits with intuitive instructions and prepaid shipping
  • Experts who create a customized monitoring plan based on test results and the client’s need
  • 24-hour turnaround analysis available for cyanotoxin analysis
  • Long-term solutions developed by an experienced team of limnologists and aquatic biologists

Comprehensive Lake/Reservoir Management

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