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Toxicity testing of “eco-friendly” de-icing formulations using Chironomus dilutus

Nutile, Samuel A., Solan, Megan E.
Environmental pollution 2019 v.246 pp. 408-413
Chironomus dilutus, aquatic environment, deicing agents, ecolabeling, environmental impact, humans, ions, lethal concentration 50, marketing, sodium chloride, toxicity
An influx of chloride ions from road de-icing solutions can result in toxicological effects to organisms in terrestrial and aquatic environments. As such, “eco-friendly” de-icing alternatives are sought to mitigate environmental impacts of de-icing impervious surfaces, while maintaining human safety. While many alternative de-icers are economically impractical for municipal use, the residential commercial market is flooded with de-icing formulations claiming to be “eco-friendly”. Given the little regulation and guidance that surrounds eco-labeling, the meaning of “eco-friendly” remains unclear in the context of biological systems. The objective of the current study was to determine the toxicity of three “eco-friendly” de-icing formulations to Chironomus dilutus using 10 d toxicity tests. The toxicity of these three formulations was compared to a traditional formulation composed entirely of chloride salts. Two of the “eco-friendly” de-icers demonstrated LC50s of 6.61 and 6.32 g/L, which were similar in toxicity to the traditional sodium chloride formulation with a LC50 6.29 g/L. The comparable toxicities of these formulations is likely due to the presence of chloride salts in each of the “eco-friendly” de-icers. The third “eco-friendly” formulation, a urea-based de-icer, demonstrated toxicity an order of magnitude higher than that of the traditional formulation with an LC50 of 0.63 g/L. While C. dilutus may not have been the intended endpoint in consideration when marketing these products as “eco-friendly”, consideration of how eco-labeling is utilized and the role of environmental scientists in determining the meaning of such claims must be considered to ensure continued and future protection of the environment.