All references that could be found in the medical and scientific literature, including conference proceedings, which describe specific incidents involving human illness and exposure to freshwater cyanobacteria in recreational or in-field occupational settings are summarised in Additional File 1. The following citation sources were not examined for this exercise:
• Reports of cyanobacteria-associated illness from recreational exposures to marine or estuarine waters.
• Publications written in languages other than English – with the exception of three papers which we were opportunistically able to have translated [40-42].
• Newspaper reports – with three exceptions: two reports describe the first human fatality to be attributed to recreational contact with cyanobacteria [43,44]. At the time this review was submitted, these were apparently the only published references to describe the events surrounding this tragedy, so were included here because of their importance. The cyanobacteria research community awaits publication of a comprehensive case report in the scientific or medical literature. Another news article supplements a cursory description in an academic journal (though not a health-related journal) of cyanobacteria-associated illnesses; both the news report and the scientific publication appear to describe the same incident, with more detail provided by the journalist [45,46]. There are undoubtedly many more publications in the news media that report suspected cyanobacteria-related human and animal morbidity and mortality: for example Duggan  and Ruff  reported on cyanobacteria blooms in Nebraska lakes that were associated with two dog deaths and more than 40 complaints of acute eye, upper respiratory, gastrointestinal and skin symptoms.
Anecdotal and case reports presented in this review were identified by the following search strategy:
1. PubMed and Web of Science electronic databases were searched with the MeSH and textword string "(cyanobacter* AND disease outbreaks) OR (cyanobacter* AND environmental exposure) OR (cyanobacter* AND recreation*) OR (cyanobacter* AND epidemiology)".
2. Titles and abstracts (when available electronically) were perused to determine suitability for inclusion.
3. Bibliographies of identified primary papers and related review articles were reviewed to search for references not identified by electronic sources.
4. Publications and other sources identified and forwarded by experts working in this field were included.
The most recent update of the aforementioned electronic searches, conducted in June 2005, gave 257 citations, of which 244 were English-language publications and 13 were non-English-language papers. Of these 13 reports, three (two reviews and one primary article) were identified from abstracts and/or article titles as worth perusing for the presence of information about health-related events associated with recreational exposure to cyanobacteria [41,49,50]. One of these papers (the primary article, in Dutch) and another German review paper we found with a different search strategy were translated for us, but there were no previously unreported references in those papers to specific illness events that were attributed to contact with cyanobacteria [41,42]. Therefore it does not appear that there is a significantly large body of unexplored literature written in languages other than English that could contribute to this review. We also corresponded with an author of a publication in Finnish that we were unable to have translated; this paper discussed cyanobacteria-related illness in saunas . The findings of that work were presented at an international conference, from which an English-language abstract was published. The authors reported that 18 subjects (38% of those questioned) were likely to have experienced cyanobacteria-related symptoms .