Sublethal toxicity of commercial insecticide formulations and their active ingredients to larval fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas)

Sebastian Beggel, Inge Werner, Richard E Connon, Juergen P. Geist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Toxic effect concentrations of insecticides are generally determined using the technical grade or pure active ingredient. Commercial insecticide formulations, however, contain a significant proportion (>90%) of so-called inert ingredients, which may alter the toxicity of the active ingredient(s). This study compares the sublethal toxicity of two insecticides, the pyrethroid bifenthrin, and the phenylpyrazole fipronil, to their commercial formulations, Talstar® and Termidor®. Both insecticides are used for landscape treatment and structural pest control, and can be transported into surface water bodies via stormwater and irrigation runoff. We used larval fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas), to determine effects on growth and swimming performance after short-term (24h) exposure to sublethal concentrations of pure insecticides and the respective formulations. Significantly enhanced 7d growth was observed at 10% of the 24h LC10 (53μgLμ1) fipronil. Swimming performance was significantly impaired at 20% of the 24h LC10 (0.14μgLμ1) of bifenthrin and 10% of the 24h LC10 of Talstar® (0.03μgLμ1). Fipronil and Termidor® led to a significant impairment of swimming performance at 142μgLμ1 and 148μgLμ1 respectively, with more pronounced effects for the formulation. Our data shows that based on dissolved concentrations both formulations were more toxic than the pure active ingredients, suggesting that increased toxicity due to inert ingredients should be considered in risk assessments and regulation of insecticides.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3169-3175
Number of pages7
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number16
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • Bifenthrin
  • Fipronil
  • Fish
  • Pyrethroids
  • Sublethal effects
  • Swimming behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Medicine(all)


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