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Cyanobacteria in Freshwater

Topics: Biological Agents, Contaminants and Hazards, Drinking Water, Water

Cyanobacteria, commonly known as blue-green algae, are naturally occurring microscopic organisms found in fresh, brackish, or marine water that can release cyanotoxins into freshwater systems. These toxins can pose a serious public health risk as exposure through skin contact, or ingestion of contaminated drinking water or food can cause symptoms ranging from minor irritation to more serious illness and, in worst case scenarios, can be fatal (Svirčev et al. 2017).One cyanotoxin, microcystin-LR (MC-LR), has been classified as Group 2B, possibly carcinogenic to humans after chronic exposure (IARC 2010). Under certain environmental conditions, cyanobacteria multiply quickly and create blooms. In Canada, blooms can occur at any time of year, but are more common during summer or early falland are predicted to increase in frequency and duration due to warming temperatures associated with climate change (Hamilton et al. 2016). The resources listed here are intended to assist public health practitioners to:

  • Recognise and respond to cyanobacterial blooms;
  • Provide guidance regarding appropriate monitoring, management, and response to a bloom in both drinking and recreational water;
  • Provide guidance on risk communication during a bloom.

NCCEH Resources

Selected External Resources

Peer-Reviewed Articles

This list is not intended to be exhaustive. Omission of a resource does not preclude it from having value.

Last updatedMar 27, 2019