Acute effects of road salts and associated cyanide compounds on the early life stages of the unionid mussel Villosa iris



The toxicity of cyanide to the early life stages of freshwater mussels (order Unionida) has remained unexplored. Cyanide is known to be acutely toxic to other aquatic organisms. Cyanide-containing compounds, such as sodium ferrocyanide and ferric ferrocyanide, are commonly added to road deicing salts as anticaking agents. The purpose of the present study was to assess the acute toxicity of three cyanide compounds (sodium cyanide, sodium ferrocyanide, and ferric ferrocyanide), two road salts containing cyanide anticaking agents (Morton and Cargill brands), a brine deicing solution (Liquidow brand), and a reference salt (sodium chloride) on glochidia (larvae) and juveniles of the freshwater mussel Villosa iris. Sodium ferrocyanide and ferric ferrocyanide were not acutely toxic to glochidia and juvenile mussels at concentrations up to 1,000 mg/L and 100 mg/L, respectively. Lowest observed effect concentrations (LOECs) for these two chemicals ranged from 10 to >1,000 mg/L. Sodium cyanide was acutely toxic to juvenile mussels, with a 96-h median effective concentration (EC50) of 1.10 mg/L, although glochidia tolerated concentrations up to 10 mg/L. The EC50s for sodium chloride, Liquidow brine, Morton road salt, and Cargill road salt were not significantly different for tests within the same life stage and test duration (range, 1.66–4.92 g/L). These results indicate that cyanide-containing anticaking agents do not exacerbate the toxicity of road salts, but that the use of road salts and brine solutions for deicing or dust control on roads may warrant further investigation. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2012; 31: 1801–1806. © 2012 SETAC