The production of potent toxins by bloom-, scum- and mat-forming cyanobacteria, in fresh-, brackish and marine waters, appears to be a global phenomenon. Cyanobacterial toxins can also be produced by cyanobacteria from terrestrial sources. The range and number of known cyanobacterial toxins are increasing apace as associated poisoning incidents are investigated, and increasingly powerful analytical methods are applied to complement toxicity-based studies on both natural samples and laboratory isolates of cyanobacteria. Water quality management to reduce toxic cyanobacterial mass developments, and schemes to mitigate the potential effects of cyanobacterial toxins, require an understanding of the occurrence and properties of the toxins and of the exposure routes via which the toxins present risks to health. Here, we review advances in the recognition of cyanobacterial toxins and their toxicity, and of the exposure routes with reference to human health, namely via skin contact, inhalation, haemodialysis and ingestion (the oral route).
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