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Chemosphere. 2003 Aug;52(7):1189-97.

Aquatic toxicity of glyphosate-based formulations: comparison between different organisms and the effects of environmental factors.

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Department of Biology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, New Territories, Hong Kong, China.


Glyphosate-based herbicides (e.g. Roundup) are extensively used in the aquatic environment, but there is a paucity of data on the toxicity of the formulated products and the influences by environmental factors. In this study, the acute toxicity of technical-grade glyphosate acid, isopropylamine (IPA) salt of glyphosate, Roundup and its surfactant polyoxyethylene amine (POEA) to Microtox bacterium (Vibrio fischeri), microalgae (Selenastrum capricornutum and Skeletonema costatum), protozoa (Tetrahymena pyriformis and Euplotes vannus) and crustaceans (Ceriodaphnia dubia and Acartia tonsa) was examined and the relative toxicity contributions of POEA to Roundup were calculated. The effects of four environmental factors (temperature, pH, suspended sediment and algal food concentrations) on the acute toxicity of Roundup to C. dubia were also examined. Generally, the toxicity order of the chemicals was: POEA>Roundup>glyphosate acid>IPA salt of glyphosate, while the toxicity of glyphosate acid was mainly due to its high acidity. Microtox bacterium and protozoa had similar sensitivities towards Roundup toxicity (i.e. IC50 from 23.5 to 29.5 mg AE/l). In contrast, microalgae and crustaceans were 4-5 folds more sensitive to Roundup toxicity than bacteria and protozoa. Except photosynthetic microalgae, POEA accounted for more than 86% of Roundup toxicity and the toxicity contribution of POEA was shown to be species-dependent. Increase in pH (6-9) and increase of suspended sediment concentration (0-200 mg/l) significantly increased the toxicity of Roundup to C. dubia, but there were no significant effects due to temperature change and food addition.

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