The toxicity of organic polymer flocculants used for the dewatering of municipal sludge was evaluated by using two different toxicity assays: the Closterium ehrenbergii algal toxicity test and the Bacillus subtilis rec-assay. The algal toxicity of the effluents from a pilot-scale sewage treatment plant was investigated with and without the addition of a flocculant (0, 0.05, 0.10 and 0.20 mg/L). No clear evidence on the toxicity caused by the flocculant was observed on both asexual and sexual reproduction tests of C. ehrenbergii. It was also found that the algal growth inhibition of various types of flocculants (i.e., cationic, anionic, amphoionic and non-ionic) was in the order of 1 to 20 mg/L, which was mainly due to a molecular weight (MW) fraction of greater than 100,000. The results of the B. subtilis rec-assay for these flocculants indicated that eight out of ten cationic flocculants caused the direct DNA damage with LC50 =0.1 to 10 mg/L. One of the genotoxic flocculants was also fractionated into their components by MW. The experimental results showed that the lethal effects were mainly contributed by the polymer fraction of MW greater than 100,000, although the genotoxicity was not detected in that fraction. Therefore, the detected genotoxicity of the flocculants could be caused by the combined effects of various components, such as polymers, oligomers, monomers and additives.

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