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Health risk assessment of cyanobacterial (blue-green algal) toxins in drinking water.

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  • 1Department of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology, University of Adelaide Medical School, Adelaide, South Australia. ian.falconer@adelaide.edu.au

Abstract

Cyanobacterial toxins have caused human poisoning in the Americas, Europe and Australia. There is accumulating evidence that they are present in treated drinking water supplies when cyanobacterial blooms occur in source waters. With increased population pressure and depleted groundwater reserves, surface water is becoming more used as a raw water source, both from rivers and lakes/reservoirs. Additional nutrients in water which arise from sewage discharge, agricultural run-off or storm water result in overabundance of cyanobacteria, described as a 'water bloom'. The majority of cyanobacterial water-blooms are of toxic species, producing a diversity of toxins. The most important toxins presenting a risk to the human population are the neurotoxic alkaloids (anatoxins and paralytic shellfish poisons), the cyclic peptide hepatotoxins (microcystins) and the cytotoxic alkaloids (cylindrospermopsins). At the present time the only cyanobacteral toxin family that have been internationally assessed for health risk by the WHO are the microcystins, which cause acute liver injury and are active tumour promoters. Based on sub-chronic studies in rodents and pigs, a provisional Guideline Level for drinking water of 1 microg/L of microcystin-LR has been determined. This has been adopted in legislation in countries in Europe, South America and Australasia. This may be revised in the light of future teratogenicity, reproductive toxicity and carcinogenicity studies. The other cyanobacterial toxin which has been proposed for detailed health risk assessment is cylindrospermopsin, a cytotoxic compound which has marked genotoxicity, probable mutagenicity, and is a potential carcinogen. This toxin has caused human poisoning from drinking water, and occurs in water supplies in the USA, Europe, Asia, Australia and South America. An initial health risk assessment is presented with a proposed drinking water Guideline Level of 1 microg/L. There is a need for both increased monitoring data for toxins in drinking water and epidemiological studies on adverse health effects in exposed populations to clarify the extent of the health risk.

PMID:
16705800
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3814695
Free PMC Article
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