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Toxicity of a mixture of dissimilarly acting substances to natural algal communities: predictive power and limitations of independent action and concentration addition.

Journal article
Authors Thomas Backhaus
Åsa Arrhenius
Hans Blanck
Published in Environmental science & technology
Volume 38
Issue 23
Pages 6363-70
ISSN 0013-936X
Publication year 2004
Published at Botanical Institute, Plant Physiology
Pages 6363-70
Language en
Keywords Algae, drug effects, physiology, Complex Mixtures, Cyanides, metabolism, toxicity, Dose-Response Relationship, Drug, Drug Interactions, Drug Toxicity, Environmental Pollutants, metabolism, toxicity, Forecasting, Herbicides, metabolism, toxicity, Lethal Dose 50, No-Observed-Adverse-Effect Level, Organic Chemicals, metabolism, toxicity
Subject categories Natural Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Environmental toxicology, Biological Sciences, Biochemistry, Toxicology, Ecology, Freshwater ecology, Marine ecology, Toxicology


Predictive studies of chemical mixtures are typically based on experiments with single species. To study the applicability of the concepts of independent action (IA) and concentration addition (CA) on a multispecies level, the carbon fixation of natural algal communities under toxicant exposure was studied. The presented study focused on a mixture of six dissimilarly acting substances. Conceptual reasoning as well as empirical evidence from single-species tests suggest that IA is more appropriate for this type of mixture. Nonetheless, the potential of CA was also investigated, to assess whether this concept may be applicable as a reasonable worst case prediction of mixture toxicities also on a community level. IA predicted the experimental EC50 precisely. CA underestimated the EC50 by a factor of only 1.4, although the shape of the predicted concentration-response curve was clearly different from experimental data. Hence, it can be concluded that the applicability of the concepts is not restricted to the level of single species. However, some limitations of both concepts became apparent, when stimulating (hormesis-like) effects were observed fo rtwo of the mixture components. These effects were also seen in the experimental mixture toxicity data but cannot be adequately modeled by either concept.

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