Acute and chronic toxicity of boron to a variety of freshwater organisms

David J. Soucek, Amy Dickinson, Brian T. Koch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Boron enters the aquatic environment from various sources, including weathering of borates, sewage effluents, coal combustion, use of cleaning compounds, and agrochemicals. The present study was designed to generate data on acute and chronic boron toxicity in support of an update of water quality standards in Illinois, USA. We examined the acute toxicity of boron to eight different freshwater organisms including a fish, an insect, two crustaceans, and four bivalve mollusks. To our knowledge, this is the first study to present data on the toxicity of boron to freshwater mollusks. We also sought to clarify whether hardness or pH affect boron toxicity to aquatic life, and to quantify chronic effect levels in two freshwater species. Sensitivity among the various species ranged widely, with the fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) being the most sensitive. Neither pH nor hardness had a consistent effect on acute boron toxicity to two crustaceans (Ceriodaphnia dubia and Hyalella azteca), but we observed evidence that chloride reduces boron toxicity to H. azteca. The fathead minnow, while more acutely sensitive than the other species, had a lower acute to chronic ratio than did H. azteca, which had reduced reproduction at 13mg/L. While we do not know the extent to which the eight tested species represent the range of sensitivities of native but untested species in Illinois, the current water quality standard for Illinois (1mg/L) is conservative with regard to the native species tested thus far.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1906-1914
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • Acute toxicity
  • Boron
  • Invertebrates
  • Mussels
  • Water quality standards

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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