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Environ Sci Technol. 2008 Nov 1;42(21):8122-6.

Unresolved complex mixtures (UCMs) of aromatic hydrocarbons: branched alkyl indanes and branched alkyl tetralins are present in UCMs and accumulated by and toxic to, the mussel Mytilus edulis.

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  • 1Petroleum and Environmental Geochemistry Group, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, PL4 8AA, Devon, UK.


Previously, comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography-time of flight-mass-spectrometry (GCxGC-ToF-MS) revealed that the unresolved complex mixtures (UCMs) of contaminant hydrocarbons accumulated by health-affected mussels Mytilus edulis (up to 125 microg g dry weight(-1)) collected from around U.K. coasts, included many isomeric branched alkyl benzenes (BABs). A commercial mixture of BABs (C12-C14) was toxic to mussels in laboratorytests (tissue effective concentration EC(20)10.5 microg g dry tissue(-1)). Branched alkyl indanes (BINs) and branched alkyl tetralins (BATs) were also tentatively identified in the wild mussels, but no commercial sources of BINs or BATs were available for compound confirmation or toxicity testing. In the present study, we synthesized 14 isomeric BINs and BATs, investigated their chromatographic and mass spectral properties and measured their toxicity to mussels (Mytilus edulis). Comparison of the results of GCxGC-ToF-MS analysis of the synthesized compounds with those of complex mixtures of BINs and BATs in wild mussels confirmed the previous tentative identifications. Toxicity assays showed that in 72 h exposures, each of the synthetic BINs and BATs and a mixture of all were toxic to mussels at concentrations comparable to the BABs investigated previously (EC(20)13 microg g dry tissue(-1)). A further 5 day recovery period in clean water resulted in incomplete depuration of the accumulated body burden of BINs and BATs by the mussels. We suggest that monitoring of hydrocarbon contaminants in mussels should include an assessment of the concentrations of aromatic UCMs and ideally identification and measurement of the concentrations of BABs, BINs, and BATs and other toxic UCM components in order that the effects of these toxicants are not overlooked.

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