Acute toxicity of boron, molybdenum, and selenium to fry of chinook salmon and coho salmon

  • Steven J. Hamilton
  • Kevin J. Buhl


The acute toxicities of boron, molybdenum, and various forms of selenium, individually and in environmentally relevant mixtures, to swim-up and advanced fry of chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and coho salmon (O. kisutch) were determined in site-specific fresh and brackish waters. Boron and molybdenum were relatively non-toxic (96-hr LC50s > 100 mg/L) to both life stages of both species. Selenite was significantly more toxic than selenate to both species. Swim-up fry tested in fresh water were significantly more sensitive than advanced fry in brackish water to selenate and selenite. No mortalities occurred in any concentrations tested of seleno-DL-methionine; however, in the highest concentration (21.6 mg Se/L), at least 50% of the fish showed pronounced surfacing behavior. Coho salmon were more sensitive than chinook salmon to both selenate and selenite at either life stage; only the swim-up fry of coho salmon were more sensitive than chinook salmon to boron. In additional tests with swim-up chinook salmon, differences in the characteristics of the dilution water did not significantly modify the relative toxicities of boron, selenate, and selenite. In binary mixture studies, the joint acute toxic action of selenate and selenite, combined in various ratios, was additive to both species. Based on a comparison of the individual acute values for chinook salmon to the expected environmental concentrations, the margin of safety for boron was only 56 in fresh and 46 in brackish water. The margins of safety for selenate and selenite exceeded 275 in both fresh and brackish waters. However, the margin of safety for both selenate and selenite in the mixture test was 145 in fresh water and 220 in brackish water.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. APHA (American Public Health Association, American Water Works Association, Water Pollution Control Federation) (1976) Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater, 14th ed. American Public Health Association, Washington, DC. 1193 ppGoogle Scholar
  2. American Society for Testing and Materials (1980) Standard practice for conducting acute toxicity tests with fishes, macroinvertebrates, and amphibians. American Society for Testing Materials Report E-729, Philadelphia, PA, 25 ppGoogle Scholar
  3. Birge WJ, Black JA (1977) Sensitivity of vertebrate embryos to boron compounds. US Environ Protection Agency Rep 560/1-76-008, Washington, DC, 66 ppGoogle Scholar
  4. Brauhn JD, Schoettger RA (1975) Acquisition and culture of research fish: rainbow trout, fathead minnow, channel catfish and bluegills. US Environ Protection Agency Rep 660/3-75-011, Corvallis, OR, 45 ppGoogle Scholar
  5. Cairns J, Dickson KL, Maki AW (eds) (1978) Estimating the hazard of chemical substances to aquatic life. American Society for Testing and Materials Spec Tech Publ 657, Philadelphia, PA, 278 PPGoogle Scholar
  6. Cardwell RD, Foreman DG, Payne TR, Wilbur DJ (1976) Acute toxicity of selenium dioxide to freshwater fishes. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 4:129–144PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Chapman DC, Jackson UT (1988) Acute toxicity of selenium to young striped bass. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol (in press)Google Scholar
  8. Duncan DA, Klaverkamp JF (1983) Tolerance and resistance to cadmium in white suckers (Catostomus commersoni). Can J Fish Aquat Sci 40:128–138Google Scholar
  9. Easterday RL, Miller RF (1963) The acute toxicity of molybdenum to the bluegill. Proc Virg J Sci pp 199–200Google Scholar
  10. Fogels A, Sprague JB (1977) Comparative short-term tolerance of zebrafish, flagfish, and rainbow trout to five poisons including potential reference toxicants. Water Res 11:811–817Google Scholar
  11. Goettl JP, Davies PH (1976) Water pollution studies. Job Progress Report, Federal Aid Project F-33-R-11. Colorado Division of Wildlife, Denver, CO, pp 31–34Google Scholar
  12. Halter MT, Adams WJ, Johnson HE (1980) Selenium toxicity toDaphnia magna, Hyallela azteca, and the fathead minnow in hard water. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 24:102–107PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Hodson PV, Spry DJ, Blunt BR (1980) Effects on rainbow trout (Salmo gairdneri) of a chronic exposure to waterborne selenium. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 37:233–240Google Scholar
  14. Hunn JB, Hamilton SJ, Buckler DR (1987) Toxicity of sodium selenite to rainbow trout fry. Water Res 21:233–238Google Scholar
  15. Izbicki JA (1984) Chemical quality of water at 14 sites near Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge, Fresno and Merced Counties, California. US Geol Surv, Open-file Rep No 84-582, Sacramento, CA, 9 ppGoogle Scholar
  16. Kenaga EE (1982) Review: The use of environmental toxicology and chemistry data in hazard assessment: progress, needs, challenges. Environ Toxicol Chem 1:69–79Google Scholar
  17. Klaverkamp JF, Hodgins DA, Lutz A (1983) Selenite toxicity and mercury-selenium interactions in juvenile fish. Arch Environ Contain Toxicol 12:405–413Google Scholar
  18. Kobayashi S (1978) Synergism in pesticide toxicity. J Med Soc Toho Univ 25:616–634Google Scholar
  19. Konemann H (1981) Fish toxicity tests with mixtures of more than two chemicals: a proposal for a quantitative approach and experimental results. Toxicology 19:229–238PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Litchfield JT Jr, Wilcoxon F (1949) A simplified method of evaluating dose-effect experiments. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 96:99–113Google Scholar
  21. Marking LL (1977) Method for assessing additive toxicity of chemical mixtures. In: Mayer FL and Hamelink JL (eds) Aquatic toxicology and hazard evaluation. American Society for Testing and Materials Spec Tech Publ 634, Philadelphia, PA, pp 99–108Google Scholar
  22. — (1985) Toxicity of chemical mixtures. In: Rand GM and Petrocelli SR (eds) Fundamentals of aquatic toxicology. Hemisphere Publishing Corp, Washington, DC, pp 164–176Google Scholar
  23. Niimi AJ, LaHam QN (1975) Selenium toxicity on the early life stages of zebrafish (Brachydanio rerio). J Fish Res Board Can 32:803–806Google Scholar
  24. — (1976) Relative toxicity of organic and inorganic compounds of selenium to newly hatched zebrafish (Brachydanio rerio). Can J Zool 54:501–509PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Palawski D, Hunn JB, Dwyer FJ (1985) Sensitivity of young striped bass to organic and inorganic contaminants in fresh and saline waters. Trans Am Fish Soc 114:748–753Google Scholar
  26. Peterson JR (ed) (1974) Molybdenum and fish. Ind Water Eng 11:6Google Scholar
  27. Presser TS, Barnes I (1984) Selenium concentrations in waters tributary to and in the vicinity of the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge, Fresno and Merced Counties, California. US Geol Surv, Water Resour Invest Rep No 84-4122, Menlo Park, CA, 26 ppGoogle Scholar
  28. Saiki MK (1986) A field example of selenium contamination in an aquatic food chain. In: Symposium on selenium in the environment. CAT 1/860201, California Agricultural Technology Institute, Fresno, CA, pp 67–76Google Scholar
  29. Sato T, Ose Y, Sakai T (1980) Toxicological effect of selenium on fish. Environ Pollut (Series A) 21:217–224Google Scholar
  30. Sprague JB (1970) Measurement of pollutant toxicity to fish. II. Utilizing and applying bioassay results. Water Res 4:3–32Google Scholar
  31. Sprague JB, Fogels A (1977) Watch the Y in bioassay. Environ Protection Serv Tech Rep No EPS-5-AR-77-1, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, pp 107–118Google Scholar
  32. Tanji K, Lauchli A, Meyer J (1986) Selenium in the San Joaquin Valley. Environment 28:6–11, 34–39Google Scholar
  33. Taylor D, Maddock BG, Mance G (1985) The acute toxicity of nine “grey list” metals (arsenic, boron, chromium, copper, lead, nickel, tin, vanadium, and zinc) to two marine fish species: dab (Limanda limanda) and grey mullet (Chelon labrosus). Aquat Toxicol 7:135–144Google Scholar
  34. Thompson JAJ, Davis JC, Drew RE (1976) Toxicity, uptake and survey studies of boron in the marine environment. Water Res 10:869–875Google Scholar
  35. Turnbull H, DeMann JG, Weston RF (1954) Toxicity of various refinery materials to fresh water fish. In: Symposium on waste disposal in the petroleum industry. Ind Eng Chem 46:324–333Google Scholar
  36. USEPA (1975) Methods for acute toxicity tests with fish, macroinvertebrates, and amphibians. Committee on methods for toxicity tests with aquatic organisms. US Environ Protection Agency Rep 660/3-75-009, Corvallis, OR, 61 ppGoogle Scholar
  37. - (1979) Methods for chemical analysis of water and wastes. US Environ Protection Agency Rep 600/4-79-020, Cincinnati, OHGoogle Scholar
  38. Wallen IE, Greer WC, Lasater R (1957) Toxicity toGambusia affinis of certain pure chemicals in turbid water. Sew Ind Waste 29:695–711Google Scholar
  39. Zar JH (1974) Biostatistical analysis. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 620 ppGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven J. Hamilton
    • 1
  • Kevin J. Buhl
    • 1
  1. 1.National Fisheries Contaminant Research CenterU.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceYanktonUSA

Personalised recommendations