Toxicity of methyl tert-butyl ether to marine organisms: ambient water quality criteria calculation

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Journal: Chemosphere 2002/05/09
Published: 2002
Authors: Rausina, G. A.;Wong, D. C.;Arnold, W. R.;Mancini, E. R.;Steen, A. E.
Address: Chevron Research and Technology, Richmond, CA 94802, USA.

In response to increasing concerns over the detection of methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) in groundwater and surface water and its potential effects in aquatic ecosystems, industry and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) began to collaborate in 1997 to develop aquatic toxicity databases sufficient to derive ambient water quality criteria for MTBE consistent with USEPA requirements. Acute toxicity data for seven marine species, chronic toxicity data for an invertebrate, and plant toxicity data were developed to complete the saltwater database. The species tested were Cyprinodon variegatus, Gasterosteus aculeatus, Callinectes sapidus, Mytilus galloprovincialis, Palaemonetes pugio, Rhepoxynius abronius, Americamysis bahia, and Skeletonema costatum. The toxicity tests were conducted in accordance with USEPA and American Society for Testing and Materials testing procedures and Good Laboratory Practice guidelines. Data developed from this study were consistent with existing data and showed that MTBE has low acute and chronic toxicity to the marine species tested. Based upon measured MTBE concentrations, acute effects were found to range from 166 mg MTBE/l for the grass shrimp to 1950 mg MTBE/l for marine mussel. The no-observed effect concentration for the reproduction and growth of mysids was 26 mg MTBE/l during the life cycle test. The toxicity of MTBE to saltwater organisms is comparable to its toxicity to the freshwater species tested. Reported MTBE concentrations in coastal waters are several orders of magnitude lower than concentrations observed to cause effects in marine organisms.

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