Environmental behaviour and ecotoxicity of cationic surfactants towards marine organisms.J Hazard Mater. 2020 06 15; 392:122299.JH
Cationic surfactants are surface-active compounds that can be found in many products, including household and cleaning agents. As a consequence, they tend to be discarded into water streams, ultimately ending up in the aquatic environment. In spite of this environmental issue, studies describing their effects towards marine species are lacking. The aim of this study was therefore to evaluate the short-term exposure effects of two commercial cationic surfactants and three novel gemini surfactants on four marine species, the green microalgae Nannochloropsis gaditana and Tetraselmis chuii, the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum, and the crustacean Artemia salina. Furthermore, biodegradation and size distribution of the cationic surfactants in artificial seawater were also studied by UV-vis spectrophotometry and dynamic light scattering, respectively. Ecotoxicity tests revealed that the commercial cationic surfactant N-cetyl-N,N,N-trimethylammonium bromide is toxic to all tested marine species while N-dodecyl-N,N,N-trimethylammonium chloride and 1,4-bis-[N-(1-dodecyl)-N,N-dimethylammoniummethyl]benzene dibromide showed the lowest toxicity among the tested cationic surfactants. Besides the novel insights regarding the effects caused by these five cationic surfactants, this work opens prospects for the replacement of commercially available surfactants by more environmentally friendly alternatives.