Chlorination for degrading saxitoxins (paralytic shellfish poisons) in water
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Chlorination was investigated as a treatment option for degrading and thus removing saxitoxins (paralytic shellfish poisons, PSPs) produced by cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) from water. It was found to be effective with the order of ease of degradation of the saxitoxins being GTX5 (B1) ~ dcSTX > STX > GTX3 ~ C2 > C1 > GTX2. However the effectiveness of chlorine was pH dependent. Degradation as a function of pH was not linear with the degree of degradation increasing rapidly at around pH 7.5. At pH 9 > 90% removal was possible provided a residual of 0.5 mg l-1 free chlorine was present after 30 min contact time. The more effective degradation at higher pH was unexpected as chlorine is known to be a weaker oxidant under these conditions. The more effective degradation, then, must be due to the toxins, which are ionisable molecules, being present in a form at higher pH which is more susceptible to oxidation. The feasibility of using chlorine to remove saxitoxins during water treatment will therefore depend strongly on the pH of the water being chlorinated. Degradation may be improved by pH adjustment but may not be a practical solution. Although saxitoxins were degraded in that the parent compounds were not detected by chemical analysis, there is no indication as to the nature of the degradation products. However, acute toxicity as determined by the mouse bioassay was eliminated.