An Evaluation of Select Test Variables Potentially Affecting Acute Oil Toxicity

Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2016 Feb;70(2):392-405. doi: 10.1007/s00244-015-0228-6.


In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon incident (2010) in the Gulf of Mexico, an abundance of research studies have been performed, but the methodologies used have varied making comparisons and replication difficult. In this study, acute toxicity tests with mysids and inland silversides were performed to examine the effect of different variables on test results. The toxicity test variables evaluated in this study included (1) open versus closed static test chambers, (2) natural versus artificial diluent, (3) aerated versus nonaerated test solution, and (4) low versus medium energy water-accommodated (WAF) mixing energies. The use of tests using natural or artificial diluent showed no difference in either toxicity test or analytical chemistry results. Based on median lethal concentrations (LC50) of WAFs of unweathered oil (MASS), mysid tests performed in closed chambers were approximately 41 % lower than LC50 values from open-chamber studies, possibly a result of the presence of low-molecular weight volatile aromatics (i.e., naphthalenes). This research also showed that using a medium-energy WAF (with a 20–25 % vortex) increases the number of chemical components compared with low-energy WAF, thus affecting the composition of the exposure media and increasing toxicity. The comparison of toxic units as a measure of the potential toxicity of fresh and weathered oils showed that weathered oils (e.g., Juniper, CTC) are less toxic than the unweathered MASS oil. In the event of future oil spills, these variables should be considered to ensure that data regarding the potential toxicity and environmental risk are of good quality and reproducible.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Mexico
  • Petroleum / toxicity*
  • Petroleum Pollution / statistics & numerical data
  • Smegmamorpha
  • Toxicity Tests, Acute*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Petroleum
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical