Health-based cyanotoxin guideline values allow for cyanotoxin-based monitoring and efficient public health response to cyanobacterial blooms

Toxins (Basel). 2015 Feb 5;7(2):457-77. doi: 10.3390/toxins7020457.


Human health risks from cyanobacterial blooms are primarily related to cyanotoxins that some cyanobacteria produce. Not all species of cyanobacteria can produce toxins. Those that do often do not produce toxins at levels harmful to human health. Monitoring programs that use identification of cyanobacteria genus and species and enumeration of cyanobacterial cells as a surrogate for cyanotoxin presence can overestimate risk and lead to unnecessary health advisories. In the absence of federal criteria for cyanotoxins in recreational water, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) developed guideline values for the four most common cyanotoxins in Oregon's fresh waters (anatoxin-a, cylindrospermopsin, microcystins, and saxitoxins). OHA developed three guideline values for each of the cyanotoxins found in Oregon. Each of the guideline values is for a specific use of cyanobacteria-affected water: drinking water, human recreational exposure and dog recreational exposure. Having cyanotoxin guidelines allows OHA to promote toxin-based monitoring (TBM) programs, which reduce the number of health advisories and focus advisories on times and places where actual, rather than potential, risks to health exist. TBM allows OHA to more efficiently protect public health while reducing burdens on local economies that depend on water recreation-related tourism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Toxins / analysis*
  • Bacterial Toxins / toxicity
  • Cyanobacteria* / growth & development
  • Dogs
  • Drinking Water / chemistry*
  • Drinking Water / microbiology
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Fresh Water / chemistry*
  • Fresh Water / microbiology
  • Harmful Algal Bloom
  • Humans
  • Marine Toxins / analysis*
  • Marine Toxins / toxicity
  • Microcystins / analysis*
  • Microcystins / toxicity
  • No-Observed-Adverse-Effect Level
  • Oregon
  • Public Health
  • Recreation
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity


  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Drinking Water
  • Marine Toxins
  • Microcystins
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • cyanobacterial toxin