Baseline Toxic Mixtures of Non-Toxic Chemicals: “Solubility Addition” Increases Exposure for Solid Hydrophobic Chemicals

Kilian E. C. Smith, Stine Nørgaard Schmidt, Nathalie Dom, Ronny Blust, Martin Holmstrup, Philipp Mayer

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This study addresses the question whether hydrophobic organic chemicals exerting no toxicity at their solubility limit (saturation) can form a toxic mixture. Spiking methods generally do not allow testing exactly at saturation without introducing micro-crystals. Passive dosing was thus applied to test the acute toxicity of several high melting point PAHs and their mixtures at the respective saturation levels to aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates. With the aquatic Daphnia magna, anthracene, chrysene, and benzo(a)pyrene resulted in no or limited acute toxicity (0-20%), whereas binary and tertiary mixtures of these resulted in significant acute toxicity (70-88%). Toxicity of PAHs and their mixtures could be fitted with one (sum) chemical activity-response curve in accordance with a similar mode of toxic action (i.e., concentration addition). The effective chemical activity (Ea-50) of 0.029 and the effective concentration on a lipid basis (EClipid, (eq).-50) of 95.7 mM were well within the range for baseline toxicity. Similar mixtures showed less toxicity to the terrestrial Folsomia candida due to steady-state body-burdens being below equilibrium partitioning levels. The results of the present study raise questions about the focus of risk assessment schemes and toxicity testing guidelines on individual substances, since apparently non-toxic chemicals might become toxic in a mixture.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)2026-2033
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Baseline Toxic Mixtures of Non-Toxic Chemicals: “Solubility Addition” Increases Exposure for Solid Hydrophobic Chemicals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this