Photoenhanced toxicity of aqueous phase and chemically dispersed weathered Alaska North Slope crude oil to Pacific herring eggs and larvae



The photoenhanced toxicity of weathered Alaska North Slope crude oil (ANS) was investigated in the eggs and larvae of Pacific herring (Clupea pallasi) with and without the chemical dispersant Corexit® 9527. Oil alone was acutely toxic to larvae at aqueous concentrations below 50 μg/L total polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (tPAH), and median lethal (LC50s) and effective concentrations (EC50s) decreased with time after initial oil exposure. Brief exposure to sunlight (∼2.5 h/d for 2 d) significantly increased toxicity 1.5- to 48-fold over control lighting. Photoenhanced toxicity only occurred when oil was present in larval tissue and increased with increasing tPAH concentration in tissue. Ultraviolet radiation A (UVA) treatments were less potent than natural sunlight, and UVA + sunlight caused greater toxicity than sunlight alone. The toxicity of chemically dispersed oil was similar to oil alone in control and UVA treatments, but oil + dispersant was significantly more toxic in the sunlight treatments. The chemical dispersant appeared to accelerate PAH dissolution into the aqueous phase, resulting in more rapid toxicity. In oil + dispersant exposures, the 96-h no-observed-effect concentrations in the UVA + sunlight treatment were 0.2 μg/L tPAH and 0.01 μg/g tPAH. Exposure of herring eggs to oil caused yolk sac edema, but eggs were not exposed to sun and UVA treatment did not cause phototoxicity. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that weathered ANS is phototoxic and that UV can be a significant and causative factor in the mortality of early life stages of herring exposed to oil and chemically dispersed oil.