Cyanotoxin / Algal Toxin Analysis

Don’t know which method to choose? Begin with our description of services to better understand what information each test provides.

For water samples, we recommend the following methods for the most commonly reported cyanotoxins. Please contact us for pricing.

Algal Toxin Recommended Method
Microcystins / Nodularins Adda ELISA
Cylindrospermopsin LC-MS/MS
Anatoxin-a LC-MS/MS
Saxitoxins ELISA

Below, you can find more information on the different tests we offer by both ELISA and HPLC methods, with detection limits for water samples. All analyses are conducted by professionals in the field of chemistry with rigorous QA/QC.


(Enzyme linked immunosorbent assay)

ELISAs are very popular screening assays that provide limited quantitative information for specific groups of cyanotoxins. ELISAs typically have the ability to detect toxins at low levels for both surface and drinking waters. 

It should be noted that ELISAs are also prone to sample matrix interference that may confound results, leading to erroneous conclusions. It is important to verify any positive ELISA responses with other techniques, such as HPLC coupled with PDA, FL or MS.

Algal Toxins analyzed with ELISA:

Algal Toxin Reporting Limit
ng/mL (ppb)
Microcystins / Nodularins MRL = 0.30 ppb Adda ELISA (Method 546 & Ohio EPA DES 701.0)
Cylindrospermopsin MRL = 0.10 ppb Cylindrospermopsin (522011)
Saxitoxin MRL = 0.05 ppb STX specific assay (52255B)
Brevetoxin (NSP) MRL = 0.25 ppb Brevetoxin specific assay (MarbioNC Assay)
Guanitoxin (previously known as anatoxin-a(s)) qualitative screen Organophosphate / Carbamate specific assay (550051)


Liquid Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry/Mass Spectrometry

GreenWater Laboratories / CyanoLab currently maintains and operates multiple high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) systems with photodiode array (PDA), fluorescence (FL), and tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) detection. This provides us the ability to report data with a high level of confidence as well as the ability to supply confirmatory analysis on ELISA data.

Algal Toxins analyzed with HPLC-MS/MS:
Algal Toxin Method Detection Limits Method
Microcystins / Nodularin Suite (14+ congeners) MDLs = 0.01-0.10 ppb Foss et al. 2020
Total Microcystins (MMPB) MDL = 0.05 ppb Foss et al. 2020
Cylindrospermopsin / Epi-cylindrospermopsin MDL = 0.05 ppb Foss & Aubel 2013
Anatoxin-a / Homoanatoxin-a MDLs = 0.05-0.1 ppb Foss et al. 2018
Method 545 (Anatoxin-a/Cylindrospermopsin) MRLs = 0.03/0.05 ppb (NELAC certified through FDOH)
Saxitoxins (13+ analogs) MDLs = 0.1-0.5 ppb Yilmaz et al. 2018
BMAA (includes BAMA, 2,4-DAB, 3,4-DAB & AEG) MDLs = 0.5-10 ppb Foss et al. 2018
Domoic Acid MDL = 0.2 ppb In House LC-MS/MS
Dermatoxins (lyngbyatoxin-A, aplysiatoxins) MDLs = 0.5-5 ppb In House LC-MS/MS
Okadaic Acid & Dinophysistoxins 1 & 2 MDLs = 0.5-2 ppb In House LC-MS/MS
Brevetoxins (PbTx 2 & 3) MDLs = 0.5-2 ppb In House LC-MS/MS
Method Detection Limits and Reporting Limits

Method Detection/Reporting Limits (MDLs & MRLs) are based on water samples and may vary depending on spike (standard addition, LFSMs) returns. Our reports reflect the impact of matrix on results through internal standard and LFSM returns, as well as providing interpretations as needed. 

Rapid Turnaround Times (Rapid TATs)

Rapid turnaround times (same day) are available on most toxin analyses conducted on water samples. Please call for rapid TAT requests.

Complex Matrices

GreenWater Laboratories conducts cyanotoxin analyses on many different biological matrices, including tissues and food products.

We have developed many methods to address exposure to HABs and you can find our research on our articles page.

For more information on analyzing biological matrices, click here.

Additional extraction charges do apply to complicated matrices. Please contact us with specific requests.