Experiments were conducted to assess the toxicity of methyl tert butyl ether (MTBE) to three species of Collembola (Proisotoma minuta, Folsomia candida, and Onychiurus folsomi) and lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) using an artificial Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) soil and field-collected sandy loam and silt loam soil samples. Soil invertebrate tests were carried out in airtight vials to prevent volatilization of MTBE out of the test units and to allow for direct head-space sampling and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analysis for residual MTBE. The use of the airtight vial protocol proved to be very successful, in that the measured MTBE concentrations at the beginning of the experiments were within 95% of nominal concentrations. The test methods used in this study could be used to test the toxicity of other volatile organic compounds to Collembola. The soil invertebrates tested had inhibitory concentration (ICx) and lethal concentration (LCx) values that ranged from 242 to 844 mg MTBE/kg dry soil. When the three test species of Collembola were tested under identical conditions in the artificial OECD soil, O. folsomi was the most sensitive collembolan, with a median inhibitory concentration (IC50; reproduction) of 296 mg MTBE/kg dry soil. The most sensitive endpoint for lettuce was an IC50 for root length of 81 mg MTBE/kg dry soil after 5 d of germination in OECD soil. Data on the loss of MTBE from the three test soils over time indicated that MTBE was retained in the silt loam soil longer than in either the sandy loam or the artificial OECD soil. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:338–346. © 2009 SETAC
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