Literature review on the sensitivity and exposure of marine and estuarine organisms to pesticides in comparison to corresponding fresh water species

Marine species, CAS number, Taxonomic groups, Species Sensitivity Distribution, Level, Persistence, Modifying factors
First published in EFSA Supporting Publications
23. November 2012
18. November 2012
External Scientific Report

The present document has been produced and adopted by the bodies identified above as author(s). This task has been carried out exclusively by the author(s) in the context of a contract between the European Food Safety Authority and the author(s), awarded following a tender procedure. The present document is published complying with the transparency principle to which the Authority is subject. It may not be considered as an output adopted by the Authority. The European Food Safety Authority reserves its rights, view and position as regards the issues addressed and the conclusions reached in the present document, without prejudice to the rights of the authors.


Project developed on the procurement project CT/EFSA/PRAS/2011/05 LOT 8

To compare the sensitivity and exposure of marine and estuarine species (further noted as saltwater) to pesticides to those of freshwater species we searched the peer reviewed literature. Relevant literature references were assembled in two EndNote libraries, one on saltwater species, and one on freshwater species, comprising a total of 3627 references. Based on an extensive toxicity database and the EndNote libraries we developed Species Sensitivity Distributions (SSDs) to assess differences in sensitivity. Furthermore we compared the toxicity (L(E)C50) of all pesticides for which more than two species were tested both for salt and freshwater. To assess differences in exposure we compared literature on pesticide level and persistence.

The results on sensitivity indicated that there is no systematic difference in sensitivity to pesticides between fresh and saltwater species. For some pesticides either saltwater or freshwater organisms may be more sensitive. We found such an effect for trifluralin (saltwater species more sensitive) and parathion and HEOD (freshwater species more sensitive). Also, comparison within taxonomic groups showed no systematic difference of saltwater compared to freshwater species. When comparing all available species data within taxonomic groups, some saltwater groups showed higher sensitivity to specific pesticides compared to their freshwater representatives, e.g. saltwater molluscs were more sensitive to methoxychlor compared to freshwater molluscs. Whereas, freshwater arthropoda were more sensitive than saltwater anthropoda for copper sulphate and parathion.

The results on exposure show that pesticides tend to have higher levels in surface water of freshwater compared to the saltwater environments. Such inference could not be made for sediments since the amount of available data was limited. However, based on general insights in persistence and absorption capacity there seems to be a strong indication that very persistent pesticides with a very high absorption capacity (e.g. DDT) tend to accumulate in saltwater sediments.

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