Tire Toxicity

John Lee leej at govonca.gov.on.ca
Thu Dec 2 09:56:13 EST 1993

Scrap tires from motor vehicles are used to build artificial
reefs and floating breakwalls in the aquatic environment. The
literature reports that waters with submersed tires can cause
acute lethality to aquatic species, especially rainbow trout.
All make and models of new and scrap tires can cause the same
effects, so there must be some common chemical or a crude
mixture of chemicals that leach from the tire rubber and kill
trout. So far the toxicant has been characterized as water 
soluble, persistent and nonvolatile.

No chemical cause has been identified by chemical analyses of 
the "tire water". Out of 143 "priority pollutants" only zinc
was found, and the water concentrations were well below lethal 
levels. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) scan found 
62 contaminants were present, but less than half were identifiable.
Most were alkyl-phenols or aromatic nitrogen compounds like
aniline and benzenediamine. The water concentrations of these
specific compounds were all too low (0.1 - 10 ug/L) to suspect
them, since 1 to 40 mg/L levels of organic chemicals are generally
necessary for acute effects. It is possible that a combination
of compounds, each at a low level, could combine to cause mixture
toxicity. Compounds related to aniline and or alkyl-phenols,
are the prime suspects but the specific identity of the 
toxicant(s) remains unknown.

If anyone has any insights or if you are conducting similar 
studies, I would like to hear from you. Thank you

John Lee
Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Energy
leej at govonca.gov.on.ca

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