Handbook of acute toxicity of chemicals to fish and aquatic invertebrates : summaries of toxicity tests conducted at Columbia National Fisheries Research Laboratory, 1965-78

Resource Publication 137




Acute toxicity is a major subject of research at Columbia National Fisheries Research Laboratory for evaluating the impact of toxic chemicals on fishery resources. The Laboratory has played a leading role in developing research technology for toxicity testing and data interpretation. In 1965-78, more than 400 chemicals were tested against a variety of invertebrates and fish species representative of both cold- and warm-water climates.

The use of acute toxicity tests for assessing the potential hazard of chemical contaminants to aquatic organisms is well documented (Boyd 1957; Henderson et al. 1960; Sanders and Cope 1966; Macek and McAllister 1970). Static acute toxicity tests provide rapid and (within limits) reproducible concentration-response curves for estimating toxic effects of chemicals on aquatic organisms. These tests provide a database for determining relative toxicity of a large number of chemicals to a variety of species and for estimating acute effects of chemical spills on natural aquatic systems; they also assist in determining priority and design of additional toxicity studies.

Acute toxicity tests usually provide estimates of the exposure concentration causing 50% mortality (LC50) to test organisms during a specified period of time. For certain invertebrates, the effective concentration is based on immobilization, or some other identifiable endpoint, rather than on lethality. The application of the LC50 has gained acceptance among toxicologists and is generally the most highly rated test for assessing potential adverse effects of chemical contaminants to aquatic life (Brungs and Mount 1978; American Institute for Biological Sciences 1978a).

The literature contains numerous papers dealing with the acute toxicity of chemicals to freshwater organisms. However, there is a tremendous need for a concise compendium of toxicity data covering a large variety of chemicals and test species. This Handbook is a compilation of a large volume of acute toxicity data from the Columbia Laboratory and its field laboratories. It presents definitive acute toxicity data on 271 chemicals tested against a variety of freshwater invertebrates and fishes. The chemicals represent all major groups of pesticides, as well as numerous industrial chemicals. This compilation should serve as a useful database for the many agencies and organizations dealing with research and management programs concerned with the impact of chemicals on aquatic resources.

The Columbia Laboratory has played a major role in developing currently used standard methodology for static acute toxicity testing. The use of standardized methodology greatly reduces variation in results. The data presented here have been carefully scrutinized to eliminate tests that failed to follow acceptable procedures. Handling of test organisms and procedures for static toxicity tests followed those described by Lennon and Walker (1964) and Macek and McAllister (1970), and conform well with those recommended by Brauhn and Schoettger (1975) and the Committee on Methods for Toxicity Tests with Aquatic Organisms (1975).

The species of fish and invertebrates that were tested are listed in phylogenetic order in Tables 1 and 2. Fish were obtained from Federal and State hatcheries as either eggs or fry. Original stocks of invertebrates were collected and cultured from wild populations with no known source of contamination; these populations were replenished regularly. The invertebrates were cultured in the Laboratory by methods similar to those described by Sanders and Cope (1966).

Test chemicals usually consisted of technical or analytical grade samples of known purity. Formulations of the chemicals were also tested when available. When purity of test chemicals was known, all calculated concentrations were based on percent active ingredients. Stock solutions were prepared immediately before each test, with commercial grade acetone as the carrier solvent. Occasionally, ethanol or dimethyl-formamide was substituted. Solvent concentrations did not exceed 0.5 mL/L in final dilution water.

Test water (dilution water) was reconstituted from deionized water of at least 106 ohms resistivity by the addition of appropriate reagent grade chemicals (Marking 1969). Water was buffered to maintain a pH of 7.2 to 7.5, an alkalinity of 30 to 35 mg/L, and a hardness of 40 to 50 mg/L as CaCO3. Test water was mixed thoroughly and aerated before transfer into test chambers. Fish were acclimated to dilution water by gradually changing the water in acclimated tanks from 100% well water to 100% reconstituted water over a 1- to 3-day period at the desired testing temperature. Invertebrates were acclimated from well water to dilution water over a 4- to 6-h period. Toxicity tests were conducted under static conditions without aeration, and the organisms were not fed during acclimation or testing. Temperature of test solutions was maintained within ± 1°C of that required for a given test.

Toxicity tests with fish were conducted in 18.9-liter (5-gal) wide-mouthed jars containing 15 liters of test solution. Fingerling fish weighing 0.2 to 1.5 g were tested at each concentration. Caution was taken not to exceed 0.8 g of test organisms per liter of solution. Duplicate test chambers were used to accommodate larger fish. Test chambers varied in size for invertebrates, depending on the species used; volume of test solution ranged from 0.25 to 4 liters. At least 10 organisms were exposed to each concentration for all definitive tests. At least six concentrations were used per toxicity test.

The tests began upon initial exposure to the toxicant and continued for 96 h. Immobilization tests with invertebrates were conducted for only 48 h. The number of dead or affected organisms in each test chamber were recorded and the dead organisms were removed every 24 h; general observations on the condition of test organisms were also recorded at these times.

Toxicity data were analyzed by a statistical method described by Litchfield and Wilcoxon (1949) to determine LC50 (theoretical estimate of the concentration lethal to 50% of the test animals) and 95% confidence intervals. This method is recommended by the American Public Health Association (1971) and by Sprague (1969) for determining median lethal concentrations. The procedure is easily modified for computing a single LC50 when replicate tests are performed.

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Federal Government Series
Handbook of acute toxicity of chemicals to fish and aquatic invertebrates : summaries of toxicity tests conducted at Columbia National Fisheries Research Laboratory, 1965-78
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Resource Publication
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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
v, 98 p.
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