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Multiple co-occurring and persistently detected cyanotoxins and associated cyanobacteria in adjacent California lakes.


The global proliferation of toxin producing cyanobacterial blooms has been attributed to a wide variety of environmental factors with nutrient pollution, increased temperatures, and drought being three of the most significant. The current study is the first formal assessment of cyanotoxins in two impaired lakes, Canyon Lake and Lake Elsinore, in southern California that have a history of cyanobacterial blooms producing high biomass as measured by chl-a. Cyanotoxins in Lake Elsinore were detected at concentrations that persistently exceeded California recreational health thresholds, whereas Canyon Lake experienced persistent concentrations that only occasionally exceeded health thresholds. The study results are the highest recorded concentrations of microcystins, anatoxin-a, and cylindrospermopsin detected in southern California lakes. Concentrations exceeded health thresholds that caused both lakes to be closed for recreational activities. Cyanobacterial identifications indicated a high risk for the presence of potentially toxic genera and agreed with the cyanotoxin results that indicated frequent detection of multiple cyanotoxins simultaneously. A statistically significant correlation was observed between chlorophyll-a (chl-a) and microcystin concentrations for Lake Elsinore but not Canyon Lake, and chl-a was not a good indicator of cylindrospermopsin, anatoxin-a, or nodularin. Therefore, chl-a was not a viable screening indicator of cyanotoxin risk in these lakes. The study results indicate potential acute and chronic risk of exposure to cyanotoxins in these lakes and supports the need for future monitoring efforts to help minimize human and domestic pet exposure and to better understand potential effects to wildlife. The frequent co-occurrence of complex cyanotoxin mixtures further complicates the risk assessment process for these lakes given uncertainty in the toxicology of mixtures.

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