Comparative toxicity of two oil dispersants, superdispersant-25 and corexit 9527, to a range of coastal species



The acute toxicity of the oil dispersant Corexit 9527 reported in the literature is highly variable. No peer-reviewed data exist for Superdispersant-25 (SD-25). This study compares the toxicity of the two dispersants to a range of marine species representing different phyla occupying a wide range of niches: The marine sediment-dwelling amphipod Corophium volutator (Pallas), the common mussel Mytilus edulis (L.), the symbiotic snakelocks anemone Anemonia viridis (Forskål), and the seagrass Zostera marina (L.). Organisms were exposed to static dispersant concentrations for 48-h and median lethal concentration (LC50), median effect concentration (EC50), and lowest-observable-effect concentration (LOEC) values obtained. The sublethal effects of 48-h exposures and the ability of species to recover for up to 72 h after exposure were quantified relative to the 48-h endpoints. Results indicated that the anemone lethality test was the most sensitive with LOECs of 20 ppm followed by mussel feeding rate, seagrass photosynthetic index and amphipod lethality, with mussel lethality being the least sensitive with LOECs of 250 ppm for both dispersants. The results were consistent with current theory that dispersants act physically and irreversibly on the respiratory organs and reversibly, depending on exposure time, on the nervous system. Superdispersant-25 was found overall to be less toxic than Corexit 9527 and its sublethal effects more likely to be reversible following short-term exposure.