Comparative toxicity assessment of in situ burn residues to initial and dispersed heavy fuel oil using zebrafish embryos as test organisms

Sarah Johann*, Mira Goßen, Leonie Mueller, Valentina Selja, Kim Gustavson, Janne Fritt-Rasmussen, Susse Wegeberg, Tomasz Maciej Ciesielski, Bjørn Munro Jenssen, Henner Hollert, Thomas-Benjamin Seiler*

*Corresponding author for this work

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In situ burning (ISB) is discussed to be one of the most suitable response strategies to combat oil spills in extreme conditions. After burning, a highly viscous and sticky residue is left and may over time pose a risk of exposing aquatic biota to toxic oil compounds. Scientific information about the impact of burn residues on the environment is scarce. In this context, a comprehensive ISB field experiment with approx. 1000L IFO 180 was conducted in a fjord in Greenland. The present study investigated the toxicity of collected ISB residues to early life stages of zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a model for potentially exposed pelagic organisms. The toxicity of ISB residues on zebrafish embryos was compared with the toxicity of the initial (unweathered) IFO 180 and chemically dispersed IFO 180. Morphological malformations, hatching success, swimming behavior, and biomarkers for exposure (CYP1A activity, AChE inhibition) were evaluated in order to cover the toxic response on different biological organization levels. Across all endpoints, ISB residues did not induce greater toxicity in zebrafish embryos compared with the initial oil. The application of a chemical dispersant increased the acute toxicity most likely due to a higher bioavailability of dissolved and particulate oil components. The results provide insight into the adverse effects of ISB residues on sensitive life stages of fish in comparison with chemical dispersant application.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Pages (from-to)16198-16213
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • AChE
  • Chemical dispersant
  • Embryo toxicity
  • EROD
  • In situ burning
  • Swimming behavior


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