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Journal Articles International Journal of Speleology Year : 2017

Toxicity of fluorescent tracers and their degradation byproducts


Tracer tests are frequently used to delineate catchment area of water supply springs in karstic zones. In the karstic chalk of Normandy, the main tracers used are fluorescent: uranine, sulforhodamine B, naphtionate, and Tinopal®. In this area, a statistical analysis shows that less than half of the injected tracers joins the monitored restitution points and enters the drinking water system where they undergo chlorination. Most of the injected tracers is absorbed in the rock matrix or is thrown out of the aquifer via karstic springs: then it can join superficial waters where it is degraded due to the sun and air action. The paper presents firstly the laboratory degradation of a first batch of fluorescent tracers in contact with chlorine, in order to simulate their passage through a water treatment system for human consumption. A second batch of the same tracers is subjected to agents of natural degradation: ultraviolet illumination, sunlight and air sparging. Most tracers is degraded, and toxicity and ecotoxicity tests (on rats, daphniae and algae) are performed on degradation byproducts. These tests do not show any acute toxicity but a low to moderate ecotoxicity. In conclusion, the most used fluorescent tracers of the Normandy karstic chalk and their artificial and natural degradation byproducts do not exhibit significant toxicity to humans and the aquatic environment, at the concentrations generally noted at the restitution points.

Dates and versions

ineris-01853426 , version 1 (03-08-2018)



Philippe Gombert, Hugues Biaudet, René de Seze, Pascal Pandard, Jean Carré. Toxicity of fluorescent tracers and their degradation byproducts. International Journal of Speleology, 2017, 46 (1), pp.23-31. ⟨10.5038/1827-806X.46.1.1995⟩. ⟨ineris-01853426⟩
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