Toxicology of household detergents to reef corals

Shai Shafir, I. Halperin, Baruch Rinkevich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ecotoxicological impacts (survivorship, growth) of two detergents, the linear alkylbenzene sulfonates (LAS) and the nonionic surfactants, nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE), were examined on two branching coral species ( Stylophora pistillata and Pocillopora damicornis). Nubbins assays (n=1,890, 24-h exposures, 203-day monitoring) revealed high mortality in 1 and 5 mg/l detergents concentrations (for both species combined, LAS LC50=1.99 mg/l; NPE LC50=2.16 mg/l). Assays further showed detergent as species-specific mortalities (Stylophora LAS LC50=1.00 mg/l; NPE=3.03 mg/l; Pocillopora LAS LC50=2.21 mg/l; NPE=2.26 mg/l), also influenced by genotype-specific mortalities, phenomena which could downgrade genetic diversity of corals in the field, leaving frequently or chronically affected areas with detergent-resistant genotypes. Results revealed that LAS detergents were significantly more detrimental to coral nubbins than NPE detergents, resulting in high mortality and reduced tissue growth on substrates. Surprisingly, nubbins exposed to second and third LAS treatments exhibited significant higher survivorship levels than after the first exposure, whereas in all NPE treatments, nubbins' survivorship did not significantly differ in the repeated exposures as compared to the first set of assays. This outcome, while adding to our knowledge for the toxicity of various detergents, highlights the need to reduce repeated sewage spills. Furthermore, it is recommended that reef managers should emphasize disparate detergents' ecotoxicity on corals when establishing environmental policies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1890
JournalWater, Air, and Soil Pollution
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgement This study was supported by a fund from the Israeli Ministry of Infrastructure.


  • Coral
  • Detergents
  • Ecotoxicology
  • Linear alkylbenzene sulfonates
  • Management
  • Nonylphenol ethoxylate
  • Reef

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution


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