Questions for “Pond scum can release a paralyzing pollutant into the air”

a photo of bright blue-green algae on the surface of water at a pond's edge

Overgrowth of cyanobacteria — the blue-green algae coloring the water here — can release toxic pollution, making this water dangerous to animals and people.

Marvod/iStock/Getty Images Plus

To accompany “Pond scum can release a paralyzing pollutant into the air


Before Reading:

1.  Ever see a green scummy substance floating atop the water on ponds or lakes? What is it made of?

During Reading:

1.  What’s another common name for cyanobacteria? Technically, why is this common name inappropriate?

2.  What makes these bacteria a bit like plants?

3.  What does it mean for an aquatic microbe to bloom?

4.  What is ATX short for? In a December 2020 report, ATX was identified in what share of the water sampled from toxic blooms?

5.  What are the symptoms of ATX poisoning? What is a scary name for ATX?

6.  Why did James Sutherland’s team think ATX was more likely to become airborne on cloudy or stormy days?

7.  On how many days did this team find ATX in the air? What are some limitations of the new study, as described in the story?

After Reading:

1.  Ellen Preece and James Sutherland both note that algal blooms are on an increase. Based on what you learned from the story, what do you think could be fueling this increase?

2.  Based on his team’s new findings, James Sutherland says “We believe that ATX is more of an airborne pollutant problem than previously thought.” Do you believe his data support that claim? Use information from the story to justify your answer.