- Associated Press - Saturday, January 30, 2016

DURHAM, N.H. (AP) - University of New Hampshire researchers have invented a low-cost method to monitor lakes for airborne toxins linked to liver problems.

Jim Haney, professor of biological sciences who directs the UNH Center for Freshwater Biology, and Amanda Murby, a doctoral student, have developed a portable system for collecting lake particles produced by cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae blooms. The toxins are called microcystins.

Exposure to a lot of toxins produced from the algae blooms can cause liver damage. Smaller amounts can cause breathing problems, skin irritation, upset stomach, and other gastrointestinal problems.

The researchers have developed a system that can be used in the laboratory to measure the toxins from freshly collected water samples.

“We have determined that microcystins may be transferred to crops. We detected microcystins in lettuce that was irrigated with water from a lake that frequently experiences blooms of cyanobacteria. Similarly, we found moderate to high levels of microcystins in blueberries grown near a lake with persistent cyanobacteria,” Haney said.

UNH researchers have tested cyanobacterial blooms on several New Hampshire lakes, including Lake Attitash, Baboosic Lake, Goose Pond, Lake Kanasatka, Naticook Lake, Nippo Lake, and Willand Pond.

“Reported incidences of harmful cyanobacteria blooms in freshwaters have increased worldwide. There are frequent reports of deaths of domestic animals such as dogs and cattle caused by drinking water contaminated with high levels of toxic cyanobacteria,” Haney said.

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