The present study describes the acute toxicity of eight commercial oil dispersants, South Louisiana sweet crude oil (LSC), and chemically dispersed LSC. The approach used consistent test methodologies within a single laboratory in assessing the relative acute toxicity of the eight dispersants, including Corexit 9500A, the predominant dispersant applied during the DeepWater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Static acute toxicity tests were performed using two Gulf of Mexico estuarine test species, the mysid shrimp (Americamysis bahia) and the inland silversides (Menidia beryllina). Dispersant-only test solutions were prepared with high-energy mixing, whereas water-accommodated fractions of LSC and chemically dispersed LSC were prepared with moderate energy followed by settling and testing of the aqueous phase. The median lethal concentration (LC50) values for the dispersant-only tests were calculated using nominal concentrations, whereas tests conducted with LSC alone and dispersed LSC were based on measured total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) concentrations. For all eight dispersants in both test species, the dispersants alone were less toxic (LC50s: 2.9 to >5,600 µl/L) than the dispersant–LSC mixtures (0.4–13 mg TPH/L). Louisiana sweet crude oil alone had generally similar toxicity to A. bahia (LC50: 2.7 mg TPH/L) and M. beryllina (LC50: 3.5 mg TPH/L) as the dispersant–LSC mixtures. The results of the present study indicate that Corexit 9500A had generally similar toxicity to other available dispersants when tested alone but was generally less toxic as a mixture with LSC. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2011;30:2244–2252. © 2011 SETAC
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