Influence of water hardness and sulfate on the acute toxicity of chloride to sensitive freshwater invertebrates

David J. Soucek, Tyler K. Linton, Christopher D. Tarr, Amy Dickinson, Nilesh Wickramanayake, Charles G. Delos, Luis A. Cruz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Total dissolved solids (TDS) represent the sum of all common ions (e.g., Na, K, Ca, Mg, chloride, sulfate, and bicarbonate) in freshwater. Currently, no federal water quality criteria exist for the protection of aquatic life for TDS, but because the constituents that constitute TDS are variable, the development of aquatic life criteria for specific ions is more practical than development of aquatic life criteria for TDS. Chloride is one such ion for which aquatic life criteria exist; however, the current aquatic life criteria dataset for chloride is more than 20 years old. Therefore, additional toxicity tests were conducted in the current study to confirm the acute toxicity of chloride to several potentially sensitive invertebrates: water flea (Ceriodaphnia dubia), fingernail clams (Sphaerium simile and Musculium transversum), snail (Gyraulus parvus), and worm (Tubifex tubifex), and determine the extent to which hardness and sulfate modify chloride toxicity. The results indicated a significant ameliorating effect of water hardness (calcium and magnesium) on chloride toxicity for all species tested except the snail; for example, the 48-h chloride median lethal concentration (LC50) for C. dubia at 50mg/L hardness (977mg Cl-/L) was half that at 800mg/L hardness (1,836mg Cl-/L). Conversely, sulfate over the range of 25 to 600mg/L exerted a negligible effect on chloride toxicity to C. dubia. Rank order of LC50 values for chloride at a given water hardness was in the order (lowest to highest): S. simile<C. dubia<M. transversum<G. parvus<T. tubifex. Results of the current study support the contention that the specific conductivity or TDS concentration of a water body alone is not a sufficient predictor of acute toxicity and that knowledge of the specific ion composition is critical.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)930-938
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Acute toxicity
  • Chloride
  • Invertebrates
  • Sulfate
  • Water hardness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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