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Algal blooms and toxins

Organic Chemistry offers a range of analytical tests for surveillance of algae in drinking, recreational and ornamental water bodies. Our expert team provides outstanding service delivery in:

  • identification and enumeration of freshwater algae including cyanobacteria (blue-green algae)
  • early detection of toxic blue green algae by DNA analysis
  • algal toxin analysis (freshwater and marine).

In addition, our staff have expertise in the interpretation of analytical tests and can provide education and training and method research and development.

Why monitor algae?

Harmful algal blooms can threaten human health and food security.

Routine monitoring of water bodies enables water utility operators and managers to ascertain risk, and develop frameworks to respond to the onset and progress of potentially toxic algal blooms in water. The ability to act quickly to changes in algal concentrations, through the instigation of a water treatment intervention to remove toxins and taste and odour products, is vital in water resource management.

Sampling requirements

Analysis Volume minimumContainerPreservationStorageHolding
Algae ID and counts 250mL, 1L usual vol HDPE plastic or glass Lugol’s iodine or as sampled Chilled (not frozen) Max 48hrs if not preserved
Toxin genes 100mL HDPE plastic or glass N/A Chilled (not frozen) Max 48hrs
LyngbyatoxinA/DSP ONLY
scum material
HDPE plastic or glass Sodium thiosulphate (if chlorinated) or as sampled Chilled 3-5 days
>5 days needs to be frozen

Algae and algae toxin testing capability

Analytical test Reporting limitMethod Turnaround time (approximate)
*Cyanobacteria ID/counts (including potentially toxic algae) 25 cells/mL Phase contrast microscopy 2-3 working days
*Biovolume (cyanobacteria) 0.01mm3/L Phase contrast microscopy 2-3 working days
*Total Phytoplankton ID/counts 5 cells/mL Phase contrast microscopy 4 working days
Blue green algae gene detection Presence/absence PCR/real time PCR 4 working days
Microcystins 0.5μg/L HPLC MS 3-5 working days
Saxitoxins (not saxitoxin equivalents) 2.0μg/L HPLC/Fluorescence detection 3-5 working days
Cylindrospermopsin/ deoxy-cylindrospermopsin 0.2μg/L HPLC MS 3-5 working days
Lyngbyatoxin A/ marine toxins (DSPs) 0.5μg/L HPLC MS 3-5 working days
Nodularin 0.5μg/L HPLC MS 3-5 working days
Anatoxin-a 0.5μg/L HPLC MS 3-5 working days

*NATA accredited tests

Need more information?

To discuss your needs or to request a quote, contact Public and Environmental Health, Organic Chemistry:

Algal identification and enumeration
Karen Reardon
Phone: +61 7 3096 2850

Identification of toxin genes
Barbara Sendall
Phone: +61 7 3096 2843

Toxin identification and quantitation
Steve Carter
Phone: +61 7 3096 2846

Last updated: 22 February 2022