Environmental Chemistry Letters

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 1849–1855 | Cite as

Organic ligands unexpectedly increase the toxicity of chromium(III) for luminescent bacteria

  • Weijie Zhou
  • Wenjun Long
  • Teng Xu
  • Liangqiong Peng
  • Wenhua ZhangEmail author
Original Paper


Organic ligands are commonly believed to decrease the toxicity of metal ions, but there is few experimental evidence, especially for chromium (Cr(III)), which often coexists with organic compounds in industrial effluents. Here, the complexation of Cr(III) with acetate, lactate, l-tartrate, biphthalate and oxalate was tested under the conditions of a toxicity test, with high ion strength, by spectroscopic techniques. The stability constants of the complexes were found to follow the order Cr(III) oxalate > Cr(III) lactate > Cr(III) biphthalate > Cr(III) L-tartrate > Cr(III) acetate. Then, aquatic toxicity of Cr(III) to Photobacterium phosphoreum for a 15-min exposure period was tested in the absence and presence of organic ligands. Results unexpectedly show that the complexation of Cr(III) with acetic, lactate, l-tartrate and biphthalate resulted in enhanced toxicity to luminescent bacteria, whereas the coordination of Cr(III) with oxalate sharply alleviated the toxicity of individual oxalate and inorganic Cr(III), which was further confirmed by the scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Our findings show thus that organics do not always mitigate the toxicity of Cr(III) in acidic water.


Organics Cr(III) Toxicity pH Stability constant 



This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (21776185).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

10311_2019_892_MOESM1_ESM.docx (150 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 149 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Key Laboratory of Leather Chemistry and Engineering of Ministry of EducationSichuan UniversityChengduChina
  2. 2.National Engineering Laboratory for Clean Technology of Leather ManufactureSichuan UniversityChengduChina

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