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Public invited to CDC chemist’s talk at UT on exposure to algal bloom toxins

The University of Toledo Water Task Force is hosting a free, public event about algal bloom toxins and the impact they can have on people.

Elizabeth Hamelin, analytical chemist for the Division of Laboratory Sciences in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Environmental Health in Atlanta, will give a talk titled “Monitoring and Measuring Human Exposure to Algal Toxins” Thursday, June 29, from 9 to 10 a.m. in the Center for Creative Instruction Room 1200 on Health Science Campus.

Hamelin

Hamelin develops analytical methods to detect human exposure to toxins and poisons.

“Elizabeth Hamelin is a collaborator on microcystin research projects at UT, and her visit to campus is a great opportunity for the community to learn how scientists are examining what safe limits are for the public,” Dr. David Kennedy, assistant professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine in the UT College of Medicine and Life Sciences, said.

Kennedy’s UT team is studying effects of algal bloom toxins on the liver using mice as a model.

“Microcystin is a toxin that specifically targets the liver, a vital organ that needs to be healthy in order to process the food you eat,” Kennedy said. “We are re-evaluating the level of microcystin exposure being called safe, whether it’s swallowed while swimming at the beach or through the tap should toxic algae contaminate the public water supply.”

The UT Water Task Force, which is comprised of faculty and researchers in diverse fields spanning the University’s colleges, UT Medical Center and UT Lake Erie Center, serves as a resource for government officials and the public looking for expertise on investigating the causes and effects of algal blooms, the health of Lake Erie, and the health of the communities depending on its water. The task force includes experts in economics, engineering, environmental sciences, chemistry and biochemistry, geography and planning, and medical microbiology and immunology.

Water quality is a major research focus at UT. With $12.5 million in active grants underway, UT experts are studying algal blooms, invasive species such as Asian carp, and pollutants. Researchers are looking for pathways to restore our greatest natural resource for future generations to ensure communities continue to have access to safe drinking water.

Researchers and students help to protect the public drinking water supply for the greater Toledo area throughout summer algal bloom season by conducting water sampling to alert water treatment plant operators of any toxins heading toward the water intake. UT’s 28-foot research vessel and early warning buoy enable the University to partner with the city of Toledo and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to monitor the health of the lake and provide real-time data.