Headspace passive dosing of volatile hydrophobic chemicals – Aquatic toxicity testing exactly at the saturation level

Lam Ngoc Trac*, Stine Nørgaard Schmidt, Philipp Mayer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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It is challenging to conduct aquatic tests with highly hydrophobic and volatile chemicals while avoiding substantial sorptive and evaporative losses. A simple and versatile headspace passive dosing (HS-PD) method was thus developed for such chemicals: The pure liquid test chemical was added to a glass insert, which was then placed with the open end in the headspace of a closed test system containing aqueous test medium. The test chemical served as the dominating partitioning donor for establishing and maintaining maximum exposure levels in the headspace and aqueous solution, without direct contact between the donor and the test medium. The HS-PD method was cross validated against passive dosing with a saturated silicone elastomer, using headspace gas chromatography as analytical instrument and saturated vapors as reference. The HS-PD method was then applied to control the exposure in algal growth inhibition tests with the green algae Raphidocelis subcapitata. The model chemicals were C9-C14 n-alkanes and the cyclic volatile methyl siloxanes octamethyltetracyclosiloxane (D4) and decamethylpentacyclosiloxane (D5). Growth rate inhibition at the solubility limit was 100% for C9-C13 n-alkanes and 53 ± 31% (95% CI) for tetradecane. A moderate inhibition of 11 ± 4% (95% CI) was observed for D4, whereas no inhibition was observed for D5. The present study introduces an effective method for aquatic toxicity testing of a difficult-to-test group of chemicals and provides an improved experimental basis for investigating toxicity cut-offs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)694-700
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Algal growth inhibition
  • Solubility limit
  • High Henry's constants
  • n-alkanes
  • Siloxanes
  • Toxicity cut-offs

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