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Single-substance and mixture toxicity of five pharmaceuticals and personal care products to marine periphyton communities



The single-substance and mixture toxicity of five pharmaceuticals and personal care products (fluoxetine, propranolol, triclosan, zinc-pyrithione, and clotrimazole) to marine microalgal communities (periphyton) was investigated. All compounds proved to be toxic, with median effective concentration values (EC50s) between 1,800 nmol/L (triclosan) and 7.2 nmol/L (Zn-pyrithione). With an EC50 of 356 nmol/L, the toxicity of the mixture falls into this span, indicating the absence of strong synergisms or antagonisms. In fact, a comparison with mixture toxicity predictions by the classical mixture concepts of concentration addition and independent action showed a good predictability in the upper effect range. However, the mixture provoked stimulating effects (hormesis) in the lower effect range, hampering the application of either concept. An independent repetition of the mixture experiment resulted in a principally similar concentration–response curve, again with clear hormesis effects in the lower range of test concentrations. However, the curve was shifted toward higher effect concentrations (EC50 1,070 nmol/L), which likely is due to changes in the initial species composition. Clear mixture effects were observed even when all five components were present only at their individual no-observed-effect concentrations (NOECs). These results show that, even with respect to mixtures of chemically and functionally dissimilar compounds, such as the five pharmaceuticals and personal care products investigated, environmental quality standards must take possible mixture effects from low-effect concentrations of individual compounds into consideration. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2011;30:2030–2040. © 2011 SETAC