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Blue Green algae: an overview . Monique D’Amour Safe Environments Programme (Longueuil, Québec) and Michèle Giddings Water Quality & Microbiology Division (Ottawa, Ontario) Health Canada. Federal (Health Canada) advice research risk assessment/management with provinces

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blue green algae an overview

Blue Green algae: an overview

Monique D’Amour

Safe Environments Programme

(Longueuil, Québec)


Michèle Giddings

Water Quality & Microbiology Division

(Ottawa, Ontario)

Health Canada

federal provincial roles and responsibilities for drinking water
Federal (Health Canada)



risk assessment/management with provinces

drinking water quality on Federal lands


provision of safe DW

source water protection

water treatment

monitoring & surveys


Federal-Provincial Roles and Responsibilities for Drinking Water

Responsibilities divided among levels of government

federal provincial territorial committee on drinking water
Representatives from each province, territory, and the federal government

30+ year working collaboration

Meets twice yearly

Establishes the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality

Health Canada’s Water Quality and Health Bureau is the Technical Secretariat to the Committee

Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee on Drinking Water
drinking water guideline development process
Drinking Water Guideline Development Process




  • costs
  • benefits
  • consultation
cyanobactieria in canada
Cyanobactieria in Canada
  • Identification of a problem
  • Assessment was required
cyanobacterial toxins in canada the history part i
Cyanobacterial Toxins in Canada: The History, Part I
  • 1990-1992-1993: M-LR identified in Alberta lakes, detected in Shoal Lake, Winnipeg’s drinking water source, and in the city’s distribution system
  • Manitoba requests an ‘Emergency Health Advisory’ (EHA) from Health Canada in 1994
      • EHA of 0.5 µg/L derived for M-LR in DW
      • EHAs are developed for specific situations; they do not have the rigorous review/consultation of full guidelines
cyanobacterial toxins in canada the history part ii
Cyanobacterial Toxins in Canada: The History, Part II
  • M-LR added to the priority list for evaluation
      • Canadian surveys to date indicate Microcystin-LR is the most common hepatotoxin present in water supplies
blooms of cyanobacteria in canada
Blooms of Cyanobacteria in Canada
  • Blooms occur in all provinces

(Prairies, Québec etc)

Tend to occur repeatedly in same supply

      • small shallow, slow-moving bodies of water common to prairies generally affected
cyanobacteria general description
Cyanobacteria: General Description
  • Cyanobacteria (blue-green algea)
  • May produce neurotoxins, hepatotoxins
  • Skin irritants, other toxins
  • Surface water supplies (Hepatotoxins/neurotoxins)
  • Hepatotoxins more widespread
microcystin lr
Microcystin -LR

Microcystin L-R: hepatotoxins

Produced by Microcystis aeruginosa

(an others blue-greens algal species)

Monocyclic heptapeptides

(L–amino acids; L=Leucine; R=arginine)

sources of human exposure
Sources of Human Exposure
  • Consumption of drinking water
  • Recreational use of lakes and rivers
      • oral, dermal
  • Showers
      • inhalation, dermal
  • Algal food tablets
      • oral

M-LR Effects on Animals & Humans

  • Humans
    • Stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, headache, painful muscles & joints
    • Acute gastroenteritis
    • Liver damage
  • Animals
    • Primarily hepatotoxin
    • Kidney damage
    • Lung damage
    • Tumour promotor

Critical Effects

  • Microcystin administered by gavage to mice at levels of 0, 40, 200 and 1000 µg/kg bw/day for 13 weeks

40 µg/kg bw : no definite effect

200 µg/kg bw : slight liver changes in some animals

1000 µg/kg bw : liver changes in all animals

  • No-Observed-Adverse-Effect Level (NOAEL) set at 40 µg/kg bw/day

0.040 mg/kg bw/day



= 0.00004 mg/kg bw

0.00004 mg/kg/day x 70 kg x 0.80

1.5 L/day


= 0.0015 mg/L (1.5 µg/L)

M-LR Guideline Derivation


  • x10 for intraspecies variation
  • x10 for interspecies variation
  • x10 for less than lifetime study

Factors Affecting Bloom Formation & Toxin Production / Persistence

  • Bloom Formation
    • Inorganic nutrients
    • Water temperature
    • pH level: 6-9
    • Daylight
    • Turbidity
    • Turbulence
    • Water flow
  • Toxin production
    • Environmental factors
      • Temperature, light, nitrogen levels, carbon dioxide and/or pH
    • Genetic differences
    • Metabolic processes
  • Toxin release
  • Persistence
    • Stable in water
    • Resistance to pH extremes
    • Heat resistant

Microcystins – Water Management

  • Reservoir management
      • Nutrient deprivation practices
  • Algal cell removal
      • Coagulation, clarification, filtration, disinfection
      • Must not damage cells
  • Toxin removal
      • Oxidation (ozonation); other methods such as UV, chloramination & hydrogen peroxide not as effective
      • Activated carbon (wood-based products best)
      • Slow sand filtration-biodegradation

Find more information

To obtain the supporting document on M-LR


To obtain information onDW



Michèle Giddings for providing

technical supports,

advices and specific expertise on Microcystine L-R

and Drinking Water Guidelines