Exposure to cadmium-phenanthrene mixtures elicits complex toxic responses in the freshwater tubificid oligochaete, Ilyodrilus templetoni

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The joint toxicity of metal-hydrocarbon mixtures in sediments was investigated using cadmium (Cd) and phenanthrene (Phen) as model contaminants. Sediment bioassays were utilized to quantify effects of individual and combined contaminants in the bulk-deposit feeding oligochaete Ilyodrilus templetoni. Combined contaminants elicited antagonistic lethal effects and independent responses for feeding rate (measured as sediment ingestion). The 10-d LC(50) for Cd alone was 1375 mg kg(-1) (95% C.I. 1340-1412), whereas Phen elicited no mortality even when loaded to sediment saturation. The presence of Phen decreased Cd lethality, increasing the LC(50) of Cd by as much as 40%. Regression analyses indicated that Phen was nearly 10 times more potent than Cd in eliciting feeding rate reductions. Exposure to Cd-Phen mixtures resulted in feeding rate reductions equivalent to those caused by Phen alone. The marked reduction in sediment ingestion induced by the co-pollutant Phen reduced exposure to Cd via ingestion. We suggest that this Phen-induced reduction in Cd exposure decreased Cd bioaccumulation and subsequent lethality. More generally, we suggest that even if the toxicological effects among dissimilarly acting chemicals (including metals and hydrocarbons) are independent, contaminant mixtures may elicit unexpected interactive effects facilitated by modifying exposure.

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Archives of environmental contamination and toxicology

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