Dissolved organic carbon reduces the toxicity of aluminum to three tropical freshwater organisms

Environ Toxicol Chem. 2012 Feb;31(2):427-36. doi: 10.1002/etc.1704.


The influence of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) on the toxicity of aluminum (Al) at pH 5 (relevant to acid mine drainage conditions), to the tropical green hydra (Hydra viridissima), green alga (Chlorella sp.), and cladoceran (Moinodaphnia macleayi) was assessed. Two DOC sources, a natural in situ DOC in soft billabong water (SBW) and Suwannee River fulvic acid (SRFA) standard, were compared. The order of sensitivity of the test organisms to dissolved Al (0.1 µm fraction) was Hydra viridissima > Moinodaphnia macleayi > Chlorella sp. with DOC reducing dissolved Al toxicity most for Hydra viridissima. However, colloidal or precipitated Al may contribute indirectly to the toxicity for M. macleayi and Chlorella sp. The toxicity of dissolved Al was up to six times lower in test waters containing 10 mg L(-1) DOC (in the form of SRFA), relative to toxicity observed at 1 mg L(-1) DOC. In contrast, the toxicity of Al was up to two times lower in SBW containing 10 mg L(-1) DOC, relative to water containing 1 mg L(-1) DOC. The increased ability of SRFA in reducing Al toxicity was linked to its greater affinity for complexing Al compared with the in situ DOC. This has important implications for studies that use commercial standards of humic substances to predict Al toxicity in local environments. Speciation modeling demonstrated that Al(3+) and AlOH(2+) provided a strong relationship with toxicity. An empirical relationship is provided for each organism that can be used to predict Al toxicity at a given Al and DOC concentration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aluminum / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Aquatic Organisms / drug effects*
  • Aquatic Organisms / growth & development
  • Benzopyrans / chemistry
  • Carbon / chemistry*
  • Chlorophyta
  • Cladocera
  • Fresh Water / chemistry
  • Humic Substances
  • Hydra
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Risk Assessment
  • Rivers / chemistry
  • Tropical Climate
  • Water / chemistry
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Benzopyrans
  • Humic Substances
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Water
  • Carbon
  • Aluminum
  • fulvic acid