Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 19 Issue 02

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Volume 19, No. 2
Pages 94 - 106


Harmful Algal Blooms at the Interface Between Coastal Oceanography and Human Health

By Lorraine C. Backer  and Dennis J. McGillicuddy, Jr.  
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Algal blooms are a common occurrence in aquatic environments. A subset of these blooms poses environmental or public-health threats, and it is therefore referred to as “harmful algal blooms,” or HABs. Some HABs are harmful by virtue of their sheer biomass, whereas others are associated with algal blooms capable of producing toxins. During a HAB event, algal toxins can accumulate in predators and organisms higher up the food web. Toxins may also be present in ambient waters, where wave action or human activities can create aerosols containing toxins and cellular debris. Animals, including humans, can thus be exposed to HAB-related toxins when they eat contaminated seafood, have contact with contaminated water, or inhale contaminated aerosols.


Backer, L.C., and D.J. McGillicuddy, Jr. 2006. Harmful algal blooms at the interface between coastal oceanography and human health. Oceanography 19(2):94–106, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2006.72.

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