Acute and chronic toxicity of sodium sulfate to four freshwater organisms in water-only exposures

Ning Wang, Rebecca A. Dorman, Christopher G. Ingersoll, Doug K. Hardesty, William G. Brumbaugh, Edward J. Hammer, Candice R. Bauer, David R. Mount

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19 Scopus citations


The acute and chronic toxicity of sulfate (tested as sodium sulfate) was determined in diluted well water (hardness of 100mg/L and pH 8.2) with a cladoceran (Ceriodaphnia dubia; 2-d and 7-d exposures), a midge (Chironomus dilutus; 4-d and 41-d exposures), a unionid mussel (pink mucket, Lampsilis abrupta; 4-d and 28-d exposures), and a fish (fathead minnow, Pimephales promelas; 4-d and 34-d exposures). Among the 4 species, the cladoceran and mussel were acutely more sensitive to sulfate than the midge and fathead minnow, whereas the fathead minnow was chronically more sensitive than the other 3 species. Acute-to-chronic ratios ranged from 2.34 to 5.68 for the 3 invertebrates but were as high as 12.69 for the fish. The fathead minnow was highly sensitive to sulfate during the transitional period from embryo development to hatching in the diluted well water, and thus, additional short-term (7- to 14-d) sulfate toxicity tests were conducted starting with embryonic fathead minnow in test waters with different ionic compositions at a water hardness of 100mg/L. Increasing chloride in test water from 10mg Cl/L to 25mg Cl/L did not influence sulfate toxicity to the fish, whereas increasing potassium in test water from 1mgK/L to 3mgK/L substantially reduced the toxicity of sulfate. The results indicate that both acute and chronic sulfate toxicity data, and the influence of potassium on sulfate toxicity to fish embryos, need to be considered when environmental guidance values for sulfate are developed or refined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-127
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Acute-to-chronic ratio
  • Environmental guidance values
  • Major ion toxicity
  • Species sensitivity
  • Water composition


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