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Volume 44 - Number 3 - 2009

Non-specific toxicity in port sediments: an approach to the content of critical pollutants

Gabriela Aguirre-Martínez1, Anny Rudolph2, Ramón Ahumada2, Rodrigo Loyola2 y Valentina Medina2


1Departamento de Química Física, Facultad de Ciencias del Mar y Ambientales, Universidad de Cádiz, Río San Pedro s/n, 11510 Puerto Real, Cádiz, España
2Departamento de Química Ambiental, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción, Casilla 297, Concepción, Chile




Sediment quality was analyzed for total organic matter (TOM), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), trace metals (Cd, Pb, and Cu), and non-specific toxicity at four Chilean ports with different cabotage activities. TOM was analyzed by ignition, metals by polarography, PAHs by GC-MS, and non-specific toxicity with the fecundation technique (USEPA 1988). The ports at Iquique, San Vicente, and Talcahuano had muddy sediments with high TOM concentrations (ca. 12%). PAHs concentrations were highest at San Vicente (18,930 µg kg-1 benzo(b)fluorantene; 10,820 µg kg-1 benzo(a)anthracene; 8,550 µg kg-1 benzo(a)pyrene), whereas metal concentrations were greatest at Iquique (20 µg g-1 Cd; 370 µg g-1 Pb; 514 µg g-1 Cu). The sediments at the Patache port were fine sand with low TOM, metal, and PAHs contents. The toxicity assays differed significantly from the controls. Iquique and Talcahuano were the most polluted sites in terms of metal contents according to the ICUI (Urban and Industrial Contamination Index) and San Vicente was the most affected in terms of this index and the PAHs Addition Index (IA HAPs). We propose that synergies between the pollutants, more than the contents of each one of these, are responsible for the toxicity of the sediments


Key words: Eastern South Pacific ports, total organic matter, PAHs, trace metals, fecundation assay, Arbacia spatuligera, quality indexes, non-specific toxicity




1Laboratorio de Zooplancton, Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología,Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. A. P. 70-305, 04510 México, D. F. México
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