Olive mill wastewaters (OMW) can be a severe problem when disposed of as untreated because of their high organic load, elevated concentration of polyphenols, and moderately low biodegradability. In the present study, the acute toxicity of 15 compounds with low molecular weight (<350 Da), catechol, four benzoic acids, three phenylacetic acids, three phenylethanols, and four cinnamic acids, already isolated from the reverse osmosis in the fractionation of OMW, was assessed on the marine bacterium Vibrio fischeri and on the seeds of two dicotyledonous species Cucumis sativus and Lepidium sativum, and on one monocotyledon Sorghum bicolor. Results of phytotoxicity showed that the most toxic compounds were catechol (EC50s ranging from 0.40 mmol/L for S. bicolor to 1.09 for C. sativus) and hydroxytyrosol, (EC50s ranging from 0.47 mmol/L for S. bicolor to 1.55 for C. sativus) while the toxic potential on bacteria was particularly elevated with EC50 values 1 or 2 orders less than phytotoxicity. These results suggested that the risk of OMW disposal may be more elevated for the water compartment than for the soil. © 2005 American Chemical Society.
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