What you need to know about microcystin, toxin prompting water ban in part of Monroe County & Toledo

(WXYZ) - The culprit behind the water advisory forcing hundreds of thousands of people in parts of Monroe County and Toledo, Ohio, to stock up on bottled water Saturday is a toxin called microcystin.

Dr. Robert Sherwin of the Detroit Medical Center says it’s produced naturally by blue-green algae. But human activity coupled with favorable growth conditions during the hot summer months can lead to an abundance of it.

“When you have too many fertilizers or runoff in the water, it tends to make the algae bloom more aggressively,” Dr. Sherwin said.

Drinking the contaminated water with microcystin can cause a number of symptoms including nausea, vomiting and dizziness - similar to the flu - that can show up within hours of consumption.

“You may think you just have a stomach bug or ate some bad food,” Dr. Sherwin said.

The toxin can also be a skin and throat irritant and, in more serious cases, can attack the liver.

“If you’re exposed to it, there’s nothing specifically we can do to reverse that exposure,” Dr. Sherwin said.

Dr. Sherwin says anyone who’s ingested or come in contact with the water should watch for symptoms before going to the emergency room and should immediately discard the water. He added parents with children and pets should be more careful, as they are more likely to drink the water.

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