Lab Matters Fall Winter 2021 - Page 13


Public Health Laboratories Provide Essential Algal Toxin Testing

by Lori Pillsbury , laboratory & environmental assessment division administrator , Oregon Department of Environmental Quality ; Aaron Borisenko , water quality monitoring manager , Oregon Department of Environmental Quality ; Caren Braby , PhD , program manager , Marine Resources , Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife ; Alex Manderson , food safety inspector & shellfish specialist , Oregon Department of Agriculture ; Leanne J . Flewelling , PhD , section leader , Ecosystem Assessment and Restoration , Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ; David Whiting , deputy director ( Laboratories and Water Quality Standards Programs ), Florida Department of Environmental Protection ; and Erin Morin , MHS , specialist , Environmental Health
Harmful algal blooms ( HABs ) occur when there is an increase of algal toxins in either fresh or marine waters at concentrations that can be detrimental to human , animal and ecosystem health . These toxins appear to be increasing in presence and abundance in nutrientrich waters , as fresh and marine surface water temperature averages increase due to climate change . 1 In particular , marine HABs appear to be expanding northward , increasing in mean annual growth and seasonal duration with warming oceans . 2 Public health laboratories can and do test for many HAB toxins , producing data that may provide critical information about how a changing climate affects human health risks .
Oregon ’ s freshwater cyanobacteria HAB ( cyanoHAB ) toxin testing capabilities increased in 2018 after the cyanotoxin microcystin was detected in the city of Salem ’ s drinking water for its 300,000 + residents . Following this event , the state quickly promulgated new rules and implemented testing requirements for cyanoHAB-vulnerable public water systems . To support this , Oregon ’ s Department of Environmental Quality ( DEQ ) received funding to increase their cyanotoxin testing capabilities and capacity .
Complete analysis linking warming temperatures to cyanoHAB formation , duration and intensity is not yet available from Oregon ’ s data . However , satellite imagery observations and temperature data indicate that this relationship may be occurring , creating increasingly favorable conditions for cyanobacteria to grow and produce cyanotoxins .
Strategic planning , stakeholder input , progressive legislation and resources allowed DEQ to become a front-runner in this field . Moving forward , DEQ will explore enhanced use of satellite data
Cyanobacteria bloom on the Willamette River in Portland , OR , in September 2015 . Photo : Oregon DEQ
to provide an early-warning system for tracking cyanoHABs , as well as genetic testing techniques such as quantitative polymerase chain reaction ( qPCR ). Expanded collection of companion water quality parameters will also help to refine watershed management plans for mitigating future blooms .
The Oregon Departments of Fish & Wildlife and Agriculture began marine HAB monitoring in 1958 . But over the last decade , domoic acid from marine HABs have caused multi-year shellfish fishery closures and Dungeness crab commercial catch restrictions . Recent data provided sufficient documentation for DEQ to include Oregon ’ s coastal waters on the Clean Water Act ’ s 2018 / 2020 Impaired Waters List 3 for shellfish toxins .
In Florida , the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission coordinates marine algal bloom monitoring and the Department of Environmental Protection is the lead agency for blue-green algal bloom response . State testing of bivalves for marine algal toxins to protect public health dates back approximately 50 years with a historic focus on Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning from dinoflagellatederived brevetoxins .
In response to emerging marine algal toxin issues in Florida , the state ’ s monitoring program expanded to include testing for saxitoxins ( Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning ) in 2003 and domoic acid ( Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning ) in 2013 . Florida has performed cyanobacteria bloom response sampling and analysis of freshwater cyanotoxins ( e . g ., microcystins , cylindrospermopsin , anatoxin-a and saxitoxin ) for a much shorter period of time . Testing is largely driven by state phytoplankton monitoring or reported algal blooms and , in many instances , is quite seasonal as cyanobacteria blooms occur in the warmer months .
Analytical methods for detecting HAB toxins in seafood are dictated by the National Shellfish Sanitation Program and include high-performance liquid chromatography , liquid chromatographytandem mass spectrometry ( LC-MS / MS ), mouse bioassays and various screening assays . Cyanotoxin analyses are currently performed using LC-MS / MS . This is an emerging area of study and data are limited , but climate change is creating conditions conducive to worsening algal blooms . Florida is prepared to adapt its monitoring and response protocols to address additional algal species , shifting ranges and seasonality of blooms .
The state has increased both freshwater and marine HAB public outreach with the following resources : Algal Bloom Dashboard , Red Tide Daily Sample Map and Protecting Florida Together webpage . These tools easily allow the public to access algal bloom-related information ranging from current bloom conditions to innovative technology grants for bloom response or nutrient reduction . n
Gobler , C . Climate Change and harmful algal blooms : insights and perspective . Science Direct . Available from https :// www . sciencedirect . com / science / article / pii / S1568988319302045
Gobler , C et al . Ocean warming since 1982 has expanded the niche of toxic algal blooms in the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans . Procedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the Unites States of America . Available from https :// www . pnas . org / content / 114 / 19 / 4975
Anthony , B . EPA approved integrated report . Oregon . gov . Available from https :// www . oregon . gov / deq / wq / Pages / epaApprovedIR . aspx
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