Are natural deep eutectic solvents always a sustainable option? A bioassay-based study

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2022 Oct 4. doi: 10.1007/s11356-022-23362-5. Online ahead of print.


The traditional use of organic solvents in various branches of industry is being rethought as these compounds very often display high volatility, toxicity and lipophilicity (related to the ability to interact with biological membranes). More recently, developments in the field of Green Chemistry are focusing on the design of more sustainable and cost-effective solvent alternatives like Ionic Liquids (ILs), bio-based solvents and natural deep eutectic solvents (NADESs). The present study aimed at performing an ecotoxicological screening of 15 NADESs using an extensive set of marine and freshwater bioassays, based on different endpoints as the following: immobilization of the crustacean Daphnia magna, growth inhibition of Raphidocelis subcapitata and of Phaeodactylum tricornutum, larval development alterations on the serpulid Ficopomatus enigmaticus and bioluminescence inhibition of Aliivibrio fischeri. What emerged was a general absence of toxicity of all samples. However, both algal assays showed a certain degree of biostimulation, up to over 100% growth increase in respect to controls with 8 out of 15 compounds tested with Raphidocelis subcapitata. Despite NADESs-induced negligible toxicity effects to invertebrates, encouraging their labelling as "sustainable" solvents, the liability of their intentional or accidental release into aquatic systems may represent a serious risk in terms of ecosystem functioning impairments.

Keywords: Eutrophication; Freshwater; Marine water; Microalgae; pH-dependant effects.