Toxins Flock to Beads in a Scientific Tea Bag

By Ashleigh Papp

When a New Zealand scientist shared a novel method to test water quality in the early 2000s that didn’t involve harvesting shellfish, UC Santa Cruz’ Raphael Kudela and his team of researchers quickly adopted the idea. After some fine-tuning, they named their new technique Solid Phase Adsorption Toxin Testing (SPATT, for short). The technique takes advantage of custom-built plastic, or resin, beads that are designed to absorb specific things. “It looks a lot like a tea bag,” says Kudela. So far, SPATT has been used to measure water quality from the Santa Cruz Wharf to the Berkeley Marina and at the mouths of the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers.

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