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Scientists seek new blue-green algae cure: Hydrogen peroxide

Researchers are now considering the use of the chemical hydrogen peroxide – known as the oxidising agent used in hair dye – to combat the yearly misery of the side-effects of blue-green algae. The chemical is believed to be able to fight the algae without affecting the rest of the ecosystems involved. Many scientists consider the concept outlandish, but many are extremely keen to discover the first test results.

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Could these contraptions be the answer to one of the side-effects of blue-green algae proliferation? Image: Kati Rantala / Yle

In a test area in Köyliö, Western Finland, gigantic white tanks fill up with lake water for the test irrigation of the fields. This is part of the process of determining whether hydrogen peroxide could be used to rein in the eutrophication of blue-green algae.

“Agriculture needs irrigation water, and the only source available is usually the surface water from lakes and rivers,” docent Jussi Meriluoto from the Åbo Akademi University says. “These waters may contain blue-green algae.”

According to research conducted in Europe, blue-green algae strains are far more sensitive to hydrogen peroxide than any other organism. This means that it would seem that destroying the algae may not be hazardous to the environment.

“Hydrogen peroxide degrades into water and oxygen in a matter of seconds, and it leaves no lasting traces in the water,” Meriluoto says. “The results are looking up in our experiments, as well.”

Results highly anticipated

Until now, quick and effective countermeasures against blue-green algae have been nonexistent. Indeed, researchers from all over the country are waiting for the results with bated breath. One of them is Asko Sydänoja, Chief Inspector of the Finland Proper Ely-centre, who says that all new weapons in the battle against the algae are more than welcome.

”Personally I’ve never heard of this method before in my life,” Sydänoja says, ”but my gut feeling is that it’s a good idea to try out, because the repercussions on the environment appear to be minimal.”

The research project is a joint effort between R&D centre Pyhäjärvi Institute, Åbo Akademi University and the Novi Sadi University in Serbia. The researchers hope that the project will bring a much-needed solution to the irrigation problems of the future.

“Especially in south-western Finland, where many special plants are grown, it is vital that the water used for their irrigation can be quality controlled,” executive director of the Pyhäjärvi Institute, Teija Kirkkala says.

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