Research facilitation and management for Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore industry

Toxicity Identification and Evaluation (TIE) of components of Oil Toxic to Larval Fish

Lead PI: Dr. Peter Hodson
Subject Category: Health, Safety and the Environment

Start Date: Sept 2003
End Date: Aug 2006
Institution / Organization: Memorial University

Studies of the Exxon Valdez spill uncovered a new class of effects of oil associated with the concentration of alkyl polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Fish embryos and larvae in Prince William Sound experienced blue sac disease, which caused the early life stages to stop feeding and die. The relative hazards posed by a particular crude oil source are dependent on its chemical composition, specifically the presence of alkyls PAHs. Petroleum Research NL funds were strongly leveraged in this international multi-player research initiative led by Dr Hodson of Queen’s University.

The objective of this project was to identify the components of crude oil that cause chronic toxicity to early developmental stages of fish. Experiments were conducted to isolate fractions of oil that reproduced the chronically toxic effects of whole oil. Successive fractions were progressively more toxic and these fractions were rich in 3-5-ringed polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) containing alkyl side chains.

This project responds to a concern for the risk to natural resources of oil spills that reduce the recruitment of commercial fish species. The results provide a scientific basis for assessing the relative risks of different crude oils by comparing chemical analyses of the different proportions or amounts of toxic constituents. Moreover, the findings indicate which compounds of concern should be used to judge the extent and success of oil-spill remediation, and provide a biological interpretation of chemical fingerprints used to discriminate different sources of oil at contaminated sediments.


  • Final Report [PDF]
  • Khan, Colin Winston (2007) Identification of Compounds in Crude Oil that are Chronically Toxic to the Early Stages of Fish. (MSc Thesis, Queen's University, Ontario) [PDF]
  • Saravanabhavan, Gurusankar (2007) An Effect-Driven Fractionation Approach for the Isolations and Characterization of CYP1A Inducing Components of Crude Oils. (PhD Thesis, Queen's University, Ontario) [PDF]

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