© 2008

Cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Blooms: State of the Science and Research Needs

  • H. Kenneth Hudnell


  • A synopsis which proposes a National Research Plan for Cyanobacteria and their Toxins


Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 619)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages I-XXIII
  2. Anthony Fristachi, James L Sinclair, Sherwood Hall, Julie A Hambrook Berkman, Greg Boyer, JoAnn Burkholder et al.
    Pages 45-103
  3. John Burns
    Pages 127-137
  4. SR Walker, JC Lund, DG Schumacher, PA Brakhage, BC McManus, JD Miller et al.
    Pages 139-152
  5. EM Humphries, K Savidge, RM Tyler
    Pages 167-184
  6. Gina Perovich, Quay Dortch, James Goodrich, Paul S Berger, Justin Brooks, Terence J Evens et al.
    Pages 185-215
  7. MG Antoniou, DD Dionysiou, AA de la Cruz
    Pages 291-315
  8. Rex A Pegram, Tonya Nichols, Stacey Etheridge, Andrew Humpage, Susan LeBlanc, Adam Love et al.
    Pages 317-381
  9. Andrew Humpage
    Pages 383-415
  10. Brett A Neilan, LA Pearson, MC Moffitt, KT Mihali, M Kaebernick, R Kellmann et al.
    Pages 417-452
  11. Drummond AK, Schuster T, Wright JLC
    Pages 465-468

About this book


Cyanobacteria are single-celled organisms that live in fresh, brackish, and marine water. They use sunlight to make their own food. In warm, nutrient-rich environments, microscopic cyanobacteria can grow quickly, creating blooms that spread across the water’s surface and may become visible. Because of the color, texture, and location of these blooms, the common name for cyanobacteria is blue-green algae. However, cyanobacteria are related more closely to bacteria than to algae. Cyanobacteria are found worldwide, from Brazil to China, Australia to the United States. In warmer climates, these organisms can grow year-round.

Scientists have called cyanobacteria the origin of plants, and have credited cyanobacteria with providing nitrogen fertilizer for rice and beans. But blooms of cyanobacteria are not always helpful. When these blooms become harmful to the environment, animals, and humans, scientists call them cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (CyanoHABs).

Freshwater CyanoHABs can use up the oxygen and block the sunlight that other organisms need to live. They also can produce powerful toxins that affect the brain and liver of animals and humans. Because of concerns about CyanoHABs, which can grow in drinking water and recreational water, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has added cyanobacteria to its Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List. This list identifies organisms and toxins that EPA considers to be priorities for investigation.

Reports of poisonings associated with CyanoHABs date back to the late 1800s. Anecdotal evidence and data from laboratory animal research suggest that cyanobacterial toxins can cause a range of adverse human health effects, yet few studies have explored the links between CyanoHABs and human health.

Humans can be exposed to cyanobacterial toxins by drinking water that contains the toxins, swimming in water that contains high concentrations of cyanobacterial cells, or breathing air that contains cyanobacterial cells or toxins (while watering a lawn with contaminated water, for example). Health effects associated with exposure to high concentrations of cyanobacterial toxins include:

  • stomach and intestinal illness;
  • trouble breathing;
  • allergic responses;
  • skin irritation;
  • liver damage; and
  • neurotoxic reactions, such as tingling fingers and toes.

Scientists are exploring the human health effects associated with long-term exposure to low levels of cyanobacterial toxins. Some studies have suggested that such exposure could be associated with chronic illnesses, such as liver cancer and digestive-system cancer.

This monograph contains the proceedings of the International Symposium on Cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Blooms held in Research Triangle Park, NC, September 6-10, 2005. The symposium was held to help meet the mandates of the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act, as reauthorized and expanded in December 2004. The monograph will be presented to Congress by an interagency task force.

The monograph includes:

1) A synopsis which proposes a National Research Plan for Cyanobacteria and their Toxins;

2) Six workgroup reports that identify and prioritize research needs;

3) Twenty-five invited speaker papers that describe the state of the science;

4) Forty poster abstracts that describe novel research.


bacteria bacterial cell brain hypoxia

Editors and affiliations

  • H. Kenneth Hudnell
    • 1
  1. 1.United States Environmental Protection AgencyTriangle ParkUSA

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Blooms: State of the Science and Research Needs
  • Editors H. Kenneth Hudnell
  • Series Title Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008
  • Publisher Name Springer, New York, NY
  • eBook Packages Biomedical and Life Sciences Biomedical and Life Sciences (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-0-387-75864-0
  • Softcover ISBN 978-1-4939-3876-6
  • eBook ISBN 978-0-387-75865-7
  • Series ISSN 0065-2598
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XXIV, 950
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Neurosciences
  • Buy this book on publisher's site
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