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Chemosphere. 2001 Nov;45(4-5):471-86.

Derivation of ambient water quality criteria for formaldehyde.

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  • 1Blasland, Bouck & Lee, Inc., Syracuse, NY 13214, USA. dh@bbl-inc.com


This paper describes the derivation of aquatic life water quality criteria for formaldehyde, developed in accordance with United States Environmental Protection Agency's (USEPA's) Guidelines for Deriving Numerical National Water Quality Criteria for the Protection of Aquatic Organisms and Their Uses. The initial step in deriving water quality criteria was to conduct an extensive literature search to assemble available acute and chronic toxicity data for formaldehyde. The literature search identified a large amount of information on acute toxicity of formaldehyde to fish and aquatic invertebrates. These acute data were evaluated with respect to data quality, and poor quality or uncertain data were excluded from the data base. The resulting data base met the USEPA requirements for criteria derivation by having data for at least one species in at least eight different taxonomic families. One shortcoming of the literature-derived data base, however, was that few studies involved analytical confirmation of nominal formaldehyde concentrations and reported toxicity endpoints. Also, there were relatively few data on chronic toxicity. The acute toxicity data set consisted of data for 12 species of fish, 3 species of amphibians, and 11 species of invertebrates. These data were sufficient, according to USEPA guidelines, to calculate a final acute value (FAV) of 9.15 mg/l, and an acute aquatic life water quality criterion (one-half the FAV) of 4.58 mg/l. A final acute-chronic ratio (ACR) was calculated using available chronic toxicity data and USEPA-recommended conservative default assumptions to account for missing data. Using the FAV and the final ACR (5.69), the final chronic aquatic life water quality criterion was determined to be 1.61 mg/l.

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