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Chemosphere. 2005 Dec;61(8):1061-8.

Toxicity of surfactants to green microalgae Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata and Scenedesmus subspicatus and to marine diatoms Phaeodactylum tricornutum and Skeletonema costatum.

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Department of Ecology, Institute of Public Health, Mirogojska c. 16, HR-10000 Zagreb, Croatia.


Ecotoxicity of different commercial surfactants (six anionic, two amphoteric and one nonionic), essential constituents of cleansing hair products (shampoos), as well as ecotoxicity of eight shampoos containing different combinations of these surfactants, were tested in order to evaluate their possible toxic effects on microalgae. Specific objective of this research was to compare the sensitivity of selected freshwater and marine microalgae to these widely used surfactants and well-known pollutants in surface waters. Internationally validated methods (ISO standards) for the determination of toxic effects on the growth of planktonic freshwater green algae Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata and Scenedesmus subspicatus and marine diatoms Skeletonema costatum and Phaeodactylum tricornutum, were used. The obtained results showed that the concentrations of tested surfactants and shampoos, which resulted in 50% growth reduction of planktonic freshwater green algae, when compared to the controls without test substances (EC50), were in the range from 0.32 to 4.4 mg l(-1) for surfactants and from 2.1 to 8.5 mg l(-1) for shampoos expressed as active substance. Marine diatoms were significantly more sensitive to the tested surfactants than freshwater green algae (EC50 0.14-1.7 mg l(-1) for surfactants and 0.35-1.25 mg l(-1) for shampoos). According to the classification on the basis of environmental effects, the obtained results suggested that all tested surfactants can be classified as having toxic effects on freshwater green alga Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata. Some of them indicated that they have a very toxic effect on Scenedesmus subspicatus and marine diatoms Skeletonema costatum and Phaeodactylum tricornutum.

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