• Zinc pyrithione;
  • Mussels;
  • Median lethal concentration;
  • Analytical determination;
  • Bioaccumulation


Antifouling biocide zinc pyrithione (ZnPT) and its biological fate have received little attention because this compound was assumed not to be persistent in marine ecosystems. An analytical procedure was developed that has proved to be efficient and very sensitive in extracting ZnPT and its main secondary products, Zn and ionized pyrithione (PT), from both seawater and biological samples, namely in the gills and digestive gland of the bioindicator species Mytilus galloprovincialis. Short-term experiments were carried out to investigate ZnPT toxicity and bioaccumulation. The effects on survival and tissue bioaccumulation of ZnPT and its secondary products were studied on adult mussels from a natural population, collected in the harbor area of Porto Santo Stefano (Italy) and exposed to sublethal doses of the biocide for up to 7 d. Zinc pyrithione was shown to be persistent in the experimental seawater in the short term. A basal level of ZnPT and ionized PT was detected in the mussels, indicating that ZnPT availability in the sampling site is already high enough to induce a detectable accumulation in individuals of the native population. Zinc pyrithione rapidly accumulated in the tissues of the exposed mussels, proportionately to both exposure concentration and time, identifying the gills and digestive gland as important targets in the biological pathway of the contaminants. Even though the 7-d median lethal concentration (LC50) = 8.27 µM established here appears high with respect to reported ZnPT environmental concentrations, the results indicate that this biocide could represent a threat for marine organisms in coastal environments and that further investigations on its biological effects at sublethal doses are needed. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:2583–2592. © 2010 SETAC