Liquid-gas partitioning of the gasoline oxygenate methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) under laboratory conditions and its effect on growth of selected algae

J. M. Rousch, M. R. Sommerfeld

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22 Scopus citations

Abstract

The partitioning of the widely used gasoline additive methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) between liquid growth media and gaseous phase was measured daily under laboratory conditions to determine how closely dissolved MTBE concentrations matched nominal concentrations. Total (gaseous and dissolved) MTBE averaged across 6 days for 29.6, 503.2, and 1005.7 mg L-1 MTBE treatments were 89.9, 90.3, and 73.0% of nominal, respectively, and mean dissolved MTBE in these same treatments were 74.6, 73.8, and 69.6% of total MTBE, respectively. This suggests that dissolved MTBE concentrations can vary substantially from nominal. The effect of MTBE on the growth of selected algae was also evaluated under laboratory conditions. Three unicellular algae, Selenastrum capricornutum (Chlorophyta), Navicula pelliculosa (Bacillariophyta), and Synechococcus leopoliensis (= Anacystic nidulans, Cyanophyta = Cyanobacteria), representative of three taxonomic groups, were used as test organisms. Toxicity tests were acute and increase in cell number was used as an indicator of growth. Algal species were exposed by injection of MTBE into sealed vessels containing defined liquid growth media. The growth of N. pelliculosa and S. leopoliensis was negatively affected at nominal 2400 mg L-1 MTBE, whereas the growth of S. capricornutum was negatively affected at nominal 4800 mg L-1 MTBE and positively affected at nominal 600 mg L-1 MTBE. The differential sensitivity of the growth of these representative species suggests that MTBE may alter algal community composition in the natural environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6-11
Number of pages6
JournalArchives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
Volume34
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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