Mixtures of chemical pollutants at European legislation safety concentrations: how safe are they?

Raquel N. Carvalho, Augustine Arukwe, Selim Ait-Aissa, Anne Bado-Nilles, Stefania Balzamo, Anders Baun, Shimshon Belkin, Ludek Blaha, François Brion, Daniela Conti, Nicolas Creusot, Yona Essig, Valentina E. V. Ferrero, Vesna Flander-Putrle, Maria Fürhacker, Regina Grillari-Voglauer, Christer Hogstrand, Adam Jonáš, Joubert B. Kharlyngdoh, Robert LoosAnne-Katrine Lundebye, Carina Modig, Per-Erik Olsson, Smitha Pillai, Natasa Polak, Monica Potalivo, Wilfried Sanchez, Andrea Schifferli, Kristin Schirmer, Susanna Sforzini, Stephen R. Stürzenbaum, Liv Søfteland, Valentina Turk, Aldo Viarengo, Inge Werner, Sharon Yagur-Kroll, Radka Zounková, Teresa Lettieri

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Abstract

The risk posed by complex chemical mixtures in the environment to wildlife and humans is increasingly debated, but has been rarely tested under environmentally relevant scenarios. To address this issue, two mixtures of 14 or 19 substances of concern (pesticides, pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, a surfactant, and a plasticizer), each present at its safety limit concentration imposed by the European legislation, were prepared and tested for their toxic effects. The effects of the mixtures were assessed in 35 bioassays, based on 11 organisms representing different trophic levels. A consortium of 16 laboratories was involved in performing the bioassays. The mixtures elicited quantifiable toxic effects on some of the test systems employed, including i) changes in marine microbial composition, ii) microalgae toxicity, iii) immobilization in the crustacean Daphnia magna, iv) fish embryo toxicity, v) impaired frog embryo development, and vi) increased expression on oxidative stress-linked reporter genes. Estrogenic activity close to regulatory safety limit concentrations was uncovered by receptor-binding assays. The results highlight the need of precautionary actions on the assessment of chemical mixtures even in cases where individual toxicants are present at seemingly harmless concentrations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalToxicological Sciences
Volume141
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)218-233
Number of pages16
ISSN1096-6080
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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