Detecting toxins in drinking water

    A Drexel University professor is developing an ultra-sensitive device to quickly detect toxins in the lakes, rivers and streams that are sources of drinking water in Pennsylvania.

    A Drexel University professor is developing an ultra-sensitive device to quickly detect toxins in the lakes, rivers and streams that are sources of drinking water in Pennsylvania.

    Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said nearly $600,000 in federal money will support research on cyanontoxins. The toxin levels have to be very high to hurt human health, but even low levels can disrupt wildlife.

    Algae blooms in parts of the state have increased cyanotoxin levels and caused mass fish kills.

    Biological engineer Professor Raj Mutharasan is leading the research.

    “This can measure an extraordinary low concentration even lower than the level at which it is toxic, and therefore we believe we can predict the onset of a bloom and maybe take preventive action,” he said.

    Right now it can take days of lab work to determine if a water sample is unsafe. Mutharasan said his new bio-sensor may give water safety officials answers in about 15 minutes.

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