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Environ Toxicol Chem. 2011 Feb;30(2):487-95. doi: 10.1002/etc.404.

Measuring the toxicity of alkyl-phenanthrenes to early life stages of medaka (Oryzias latipes) using partition-controlled delivery.

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Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.


Alkyl-phenanthrenes are a class of compounds present in crude oil and toxic to developing fish. Most research on alkyl-phenanthrenes has focused on retene (7-isopropyl-1-methyl-phenanthrene), but little is known about the chronic toxicity of related congeners to the early life stages of fish. This project is the first to describe the chronic toxicity of a series of alkyl-phenanthrenes to the embryos of Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes) using the partition-controlled delivery (PCD) method of exposure and is the first to establish a relationship between toxicity of alkyl-phenanthrenes and log P. With PCD, test concentrations were maintained by equilibrium partitioning of test chemicals from polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) films containing various concentrations of C1 to C4 phenanthrenes. Log film:solution partition constants (log K(fs)) and aqueous solubility limits were determined for each alkyl-phenanthrene. The prevalence of abnormalities in fish embryos increased in an exposure-dependent manner, with median effective concentration (EC50) values lower than experimental solubility limits of the compounds, and typical of environmental concentrations. Alkyl-phenanthrenes were more toxic to medaka embryos than unsubstituted phenanthrene, with effects resembling those of dioxin and indicating a specific receptor-based mechanism of toxicity. These results extend conclusions for the Exxon Valdez oil spill, suggest a specific mechanism of toxicity for alkyl-phenanthrenes, and provide a model for assessing the risks of mixture toxicity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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