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Cyanobacteria in Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River

Accumulation of foam at the boundary of the Microcystis bloom in the Potomac in August, 2004. (Photo: Richard Lacouture Morgan State University Estuarine Research Center)

Accumulation of foam at the boundary of the Microcystis bloom in the Potomac in August, 2004. (Credit: Richard Lacouture, Morgan State University Estuarine Research Center)

The Harmful Algal Bloom Event Response Program supported toxin analysis to allow the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to assess toxin variability associated with an extensive, and taxonomically diverse, cyanobacterial bloom in the Potomac River in late summer 2004. The cyanobacterial toxin, microcystin, was detected in all samples, with levels high enough to pose human health risks in some locations. The results also showed that anatoxin-a was present in some samples, indicating the potential for synergistic toxic effects. This new information was combined with historical data and used to educate the public regarding cyanobacterial blooms and associated health risks through media outlets and web reports.

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