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Time-dependent degradation and toxicity of diclofop-methyl in algal suspensions

Cai, Xiyun, Ye, Jing, Sheng, Guangyao, Liu, Weiping
Environmental science and pollution research international 2009 v.16 no.4 pp. 459-465
Chlorella vulgaris, absorbance, absorption, acute toxicity, algae culture, cell membranes, culture media, diclofop, diclofop-methyl, dissociation, ecotoxicology, environmental assessment, high performance liquid chromatography, hydrophobicity, mechanism of action, phenol, pollutants, risk, risk assessment, toxicity testing
Background, aim, and scope As emerging contaminants, transformation products of the pollutants via various environmental processes are rather unknown, and some may predominately contribute to the environmental risks of the parent compounds. Hence, studies on transformation products complement the assessment of the environmental safety of the parent compounds. In this study, degradation experiments and toxicity tests using diclofop-methyl (DM), a widely used herbicide, and selected major transformation products were carried out in algal cultures to assess the time course of DM toxicity and its relevance in the formation of new breakdown products. Methods The alga Chlorella vulgaris was maintained in the algal growth medium HB IV. The inhibition of algal growth was determined by measuring optical density at 680 nm (OD₆₈₀). Initially, DM and two selected breakdown products were added to the algal cultures, and following degradation experiments analyses were carried out by high performance liquid chromatography. In addition, the possible relationship between DM degradation and toxicity was assessed, based on physico-chemical properties of the compounds and their toxicity. Results DM was rapidly absorbed onto the surface of the algal cells where it was hydrolyzed to diclofop (DC). Further degradation to 4-(2, 4-dichlorophenoxy) phenol (DP) occurred in the cells. However, only a minor amount of DC was degraded to DP under the same conditions when DC was initially added to the algal culture. When C. vulgaris was exposed to these compounds for 96 h, the determined EC₅₀ showed that DC was about ten times less toxic than DM (EC₅₀ = 0.42 mg/L) and that DP (EC₅₀ = 0.20 mg/L) was the most toxic. Discussion Due to strong hydrophobicity and rare dissociation, DM has tendency toward absorption as compared to DC. The higher average degradation rates of DC initially treated by DM revealed the damage of the cell membranes caused by the DM and, thus, enhanced movement of DC into the cells. Following occurrence of phenolic breakdown products, DP suggested that DC should be intracellularly degraded to DP, which had a more potent mode of action and a higher acute toxicity. Moreover, the results for EC₅₀ at various intervals were in accordance with degradation processes of the initial compounds, in which rapid formation of DP was attributed to an increasing toxicity of DM. Conclusions The toxicity of DM in algal suspensions increased with time due to its degradation to DP, which contributed significantly to the determined toxicity. These results indicate that the toxicity of the pesticide probably depends significantly on degradation. It is thus important to consider the time-dependent environmental processes when evaluating the toxicological effects of pesticides for proper risk assessment. Recommendations and perspectives Increasing transformation products of these contaminants are identified in the environment, although they seem to be unknown in terms of the lacking studies on environmental behavior and ecotoxicity concerning them. Certain breakdown products probably greatly contribute to the apparent toxicity of the parent compounds, which is ascribed to the parent compounds in general studies ignoring the dependence of their toxicity on various transformation pathways. These studies that identify new intermediates and assess their toxicity via the environmental processes will be helpful to distinguish the nature of toxicity of the parent contaminants.