Toxicity of methyl-tert-butyl ether to freshwater organisms.
Increased input of the fuel oxygenate methyl-tert-butyl ether (MTBE) into aquatic systems has led to concerns about its effect(s) on aquatic life. As part of a study conducted by University of California scientists for the State of California, the Aquatic Toxicology Laboratory, UC Davis, reviewed existing literature on toxicity of MTBE to freshwater organisms, and new information was generated on chronic, developmental toxicity in fish, and potential toxicity of MTBE to California resident species. Depending on time of exposure and endpoint measured, MTBE is toxic to various aquatic organisms at concentrations of 57-> 1000 mg/l (invertebrates), and 388-2600 mg/l (vertebrates). Developmental effects in medaka (Oryzias latipes) were not observed at concentrations up to 480 mg/l, and all fish hatched and performed feeding and swimming in a normal manner. Bacterial assays proved most sensitive with toxicity to Salmonella typhimurium measured at 7.4 mg/l within 48 h. In microalgae, decreased growth was observed at 2400 and 4800 mg/l within 5 days. MTBE does not appear to bioaccumulate in fish and is rapidly excreted or metabolized. Collectively, the available data suggests that at environmental MTBE exposure levels found in surface waters (< 0.1 mg/l) this compound is likely not acutely toxic to aquatic life. However, more information is needed on chronic and sublethal effects before we can eliminate the possibility of risk to aquatic communities at currently detected concentrations.
Werner, I; Koger, CS; Deanovic, LA; Hinton, DE
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