Using effects-directed analysis, we investigated associations previously observed between polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and embryotoxicity in field-deployed low-density polyethylene (LDPE). We conducted effects-directed analysis using a zebrafish embryo assay and iterative fractionation of extracts of LDPE that were deployed in the Portland Harbor superfund megasite, Oregon (USA). Whole extracts induced toxicity including mortality, edema, and notochord distortion at 20% effect concentration (EC20) values of approximately 100, 100, and 10 mg LDPE/mL, respectively. Through fractionation, we determined that PAHs at concentrations similar to previous research did not contribute markedly to toxicity. We also eliminated pesticides, phthalates, musks, and other substances identified in toxic fractions by testing surrogate mixtures. We identified free fatty acids as lethal components of LDPE extracts and confirmed their toxicity with authentic standards. We found chromatographic evidence that dithiocarbamates are responsible for notochord and other sublethal effects, although exact matches were not obtained. Fatty acids and dithiocarbamates were previously unrecorded components of LDPE extracts and likely contribute to the toxicity of the whole mixture. The present study demonstrates the success of effects-directed analysis in nontargeted hazard identification using the zebrafish embryo test as a self-contained battery of bioassays that allows identification of multiple chemicals with different modes of action. This is the first effects-directed analysis to combine LDPE and zebrafish, approaches that are widely applicable to identifying developmental hazards in the bioavailable fraction of hydrophobic organic compounds. Environ Toxicol Chem 2017;36:2290-2298. © 2017 SETAC.
Keywords: Bioavailable; Dithiocarbamate; Fatty acid; Hazard identification; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon.
© 2017 SETAC.