Posted by Stephanie A. Smith, Ph.D., on Tue, July 21, 2015
Nobody’s ever been killed by a skunk. Most of us have experienced the unpleasant smell of one, usually on the highway. Of course, some overly curious dogs have experienced skunks firsthand, much to the dismay of their humans. But has that smell every actually killed anyone? I’ve heard rumors of a stress-induced heart attack in a human whose dog got skunked, but other than that, nobody’s ever been killed by the stink of a skunk.
Geosmin and MIB are the skunks of the drinking water world. These highly unpleasant “taste and odor” compounds might make you think there is dirt in your tap water, and that your drinking water plant is not getting the job done. But that’s not the case—these molecules are very hard to remove and in fact are harmless at the concentrations coming through your tap.
The algae in harmful algal blooms (HABs) can make geosmin and MIB, in addition to the toxins like microcystin that make headlines these days. But just because the water might be skunky, doesn’t mean that the toxins are in the water. In Ohio, drinking water plants are now regularly testing for microcystin to ensure that the toxin doesn’t end up in your water.