, Volume 188-189, Issue 1, pp 155-162

Luminescent bacteria toxicity assay in the study of mercury speciation

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The toxicities of solutions of 10 mercury compounds to luminescent bacteria were measured using the Microtox Toxicity Bioassay. The aim of this study was to assess the influence that the counter-ions have on the aquatic toxicity of mercury salts. The toxicities of these mercury compounds were very similar, except for mercurous tannate and mercuric salicylate. This can be attributed to differences in the ionization and speciation patterns of these compounds relative to the other compounds tested. In general, the toxicity of the solutions at pH 5 was not significantly different from the toxicity of these solutions at pH 6, but a clear reduction in toxicity was observed when the pH of the solution was adjusted to pH 9. Significant differences were found between the toxicity of Hg(I) and Hg(II) salts of the same anion at pH 9. When cysteine was added to a mercuric nitrate solution (at pH 6), a reduction in the toxicity was observed. This can be explained in terms of the strong binding of mercury to cysteine, thus reducing the concentration of mercury species available to cause an observable toxic effect to the bioluminescent bacteria.