Toxin detection

A $600,000 grant from the US EPA is enabling a Drexel University professor to wrap up five years of research into a new device that can detect a harmful class of toxins that threatens drinking water.


A $600,000 grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency is enabling a DrexelUniversityprofessor to wrap up five years of research into a new device that can detect a harmful class of toxins that threatens drinking water.



Prof Raj Mutharasan is the principal developer of the ultra-sensitive device, which, once built, will be capable of detecting, within minutes, the presence of cyanotoxins in rivers, lakes and streams used for drinking water.



Cyanotoxins is a class of bacteria linked to kidney problems, cancer and the death of fish.



Mutharasan likened the value of his work to the technological advancement and health breakthroughs gained by the invention of blood-glucose monitoring devices. Like those commercially available devices, his project will make it possible to get an accurate measurement easily and rapidly without laboratory analysis.



‘The ability to measure cyanotoxins at levels almost a billion-fold lower and at low cost provides a great capability for officials in charge of ensuring the safety of our water supply,’ said Mutharasan, who expects to complete the project in about three years.



His goal is to get the device commercially manufactured to help prevent potentially widespread damage caused by cyanotoxins.


Mutharasan’s technology would allow water test results in 10 to 15 minutes, whereas the existing method to test for cyanotoxins can take up to three days, potentially leaving communities exposed to contaminated water.