It’s no secret that toxic algae are becoming a growing problem for water supplies worldwide. From lakes and reservoirs to drinking water supplies, toxic algae can contaminate any type of water, bringing about health problems for people and animals. Luckily, there are ways to test for and reduce the toxicity of algae in the water.
One way to test for toxins in algae is through ELISA test kits. ELISA, or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, can be performed in a water lab and only requires a small water sample. The ELISA test works by binding the toxin to an antibody that is linked to an enzyme. This produces a color change that can be measured to determine the level of toxicity. Traditionally, ELISA test kits have been used to screen for toxins in food and environmental samples. However, they are increasingly being used to screen for algae toxins in the water.
The Benton-Franklin Health District Water Lab in Kennewick, Washington, is one example of a water lab using ELISA test kits to screen for algae toxins in local lakes. According to a recent news report, the health district has seen an unusual spike in the death of dogs exposed to toxic algae while swimming in local lakes. Because you can’t tell by looking at the water if it’s contaminated with toxins, the only way to know for sure is to test it. That’s where ELISA test kits come in. With these kits, water labs can rapidly screen for toxins and warn the public when levels are elevated. The Kennewick community is hopeful that these kits will help to keep the local lakes safe for swimming, reduce the risk of exposure to toxic algae, and reverse the trend of dog deaths.
Practical steps can also be taken to reduce the risk of toxic algae contamination. Some tips for reducing toxicity levels include:
- Avoiding swimming or wading in water that looks green, scummy, or has an unpleasant odor
- Keeping pets out of the water without scientific confirmation it is safe
- Not drinking or cooking with water that might be contaminated
- Avoiding using lawn fertilizer near water bodies
- Picking up after pets to prevent waste from running into waterways
Between these simpler tips and the formal ELISA test kit screenings, there’s a lot we can do to keep our water supplies safe from toxic algae. The risk of exposure to these toxins is a serious concern, with the potential to cause serious health problems. However, this invisible threat is no match for a community that’s informed and takes action. Harnessing the power of ELISA test kits can help us to keep our water clean and safe for everyone for years to come.