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Toxicity of wildland fire-fighting chemicals in pulsed exposures to rainbow trout and fathead minnows

May 6, 2022

Intrusions of fire-fighting chemicals in streams can result from containment and suppression of wildfires and may be harmful to native biota. We investigated the toxicity of seven current-use fire-fighting chemicals to juvenile rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) by simulating chemical intrusions under variable field conditions to provide insight on the potential damage these chemicals may cause in waterways. We manipulated water flow rate, water hardness, and concentration of the chemicals in three separate attenuated exposure assays where chemical concentrations decreased throughout the 96-hour exposure period. Concentration of retardant, temperature, duration of chemical exposure, and the number of exposures were manipulated in four pulsed assays where up to one-hour exposures were followed by an observation period in control water to determine delayed toxicity or recovery. Mortality of rainbow trout was higher across treatments at a warmer temperature and also increased with increasing concentration rate, increasing exposure duration, and with sequential exposures across assays. For fathead minnows, mortality increased with increasing concentration of fire retardant and longer exposure durations. Chemical exposure can exert additional stress during wildfire events that may impact stream fishes. Since the ratio of toxic unionized ammonia to ionized ammonia is greater with increasing temperature and pH, future studies could investigate the effects of water temperature and pH on native fishes under environmentally relevant concentrations of fire-fighting chemicals.

Publication Year 2022
Title Toxicity of wildland fire-fighting chemicals in pulsed exposures to rainbow trout and fathead minnows
DOI 10.1002/etc.5347
Authors Holly J. Puglis, Michael G. Iacchetta, Christina M. Mackey
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Index ID 70231303
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Columbia Environmental Research Center