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Issue 1, 2008
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Toxicity of imidazolium ionic liquids to freshwater algae

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Room-temperature ionic liquids (ILs) are a class of novel green chemicals being designed to replace traditional volatile organic solvents in industrial processes. The potential effects of ILs on aquatic ecosystems have been poorly studied, despite the possibility of unintentional discharge into rivers and lakes, and their intentional disposal in wastewater treatment plants. We studied the effects of three imidazolium ionic liquids, 1-butyl-, 1-hexyl- and 1-octyl-3-methylimidazolium bromide, on the growth rates of two freshwater algae, Scenedesmus quadricauda and Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, in 96 h standard toxicity bioassays. Increases in alkyl chain length increased the toxicity of these ionic liquids to both S. quadricauda (EC50 values of 0.005–13.23 mg L–1) and C. reinhardtii (EC50 values of 4.07–2138 mg L–1). Bioassays were performed in both nutrient-amended media and low-nutrient groundwater to evaluate if test conditions altered IL toxicity. EC50 values for S. quadricauda were similar between nutrient media and groundwater for all ILs tested, while the presence of nutrient media appeared to partially mitigate the toxicity of ILs to C. reinhardtii (groundwater EC50 < media EC50). Overall, S. quadricauda was much more sensitive than C. reinhardtii to all ILs tested, perhaps reflecting differences in cell wall structure. EC50 values suggest that ILs are more, or just as, toxic to algae than many of the solvents they are intended to replace. Results of this study show that ionic liquids can elicit a range of algal responses, suggesting that a diversity of target organisms be tested in order to predict the effects of ILs in natural environments.

Graphical abstract: Toxicity of imidazolium ionic liquids to freshwater algae

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Publication details

The article was received on 21 Jun 2007, accepted on 31 Oct 2007 and first published on 20 Nov 2007

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/B709289J
Citation: Green Chem., 2008,10, 104-110
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    Toxicity of imidazolium ionic liquids to freshwater algae

    K. J. Kulacki and G. A. Lamberti, Green Chem., 2008, 10, 104
    DOI: 10.1039/B709289J

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