Organic ultraviolet (UV) filters in the South China sea coastal region: Environmental occurrence, toxicological effects and risk assessment

Mirabelle M.P. TSUI, Lianguo CHEN, Tangtian HE, Qi WANG, Chenyan HU, Chung Wah James LAM, Paul K.S. LAM

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Organic ultraviolet (UV) filters are common ingredients of personal care products and occur ubiquitously in the aquatic environment; however, little is known about their distribution in and potential effects to the marine environment. This study reports the occurrence, toxicological effects and risk assessment of eleven commonly consumed UV filters in marine surface water collected from the South China Sea (SCS) coastal region. The concentrations of UV filters ranged from <MDL to 145 ng/L in the SCS, in which benzophenone-3, octocrylene and butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane were the most dominant compounds with their detection frequencies over 97%. Relatively higher levels of total UV filters were found near the highly industrialized and urbanized Pearl River Estuary (PRE) and the concentrations gradually decreased towards the SCS. In general, the environmental levels of UV filters were higher at the western marine waters in Hong Kong than the eastern marine waters. Significant negative correlations were observed between benzophenone-4 and water temperature, as well as ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate and salinity (P < 0.001; r < -0.5). Immobilization test of barnacle nauplius larvae (Balanus amphitrite) was conducted to assess the acute toxicity of organic UV filters to marine organisms. Benzophenone-8 and 4-methylbenzylidene camphor showed relatively higher toxicity with the 50% effect concentrations (EC50) of 2.2 and 3.9 mg/L, respectively. A preliminary risk assessment was conducted by the results obtained from our field and laboratory studies. Results showed that the risk to cause immobilization in barnacle nauplius larvae in associated with exposure to current levels of organic UV filters in the SCS was minimal. Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-33
JournalEcotoxicology and Environmental Safety
Early online dateMay 2019
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019



Tsui, M. M. P., Chen, L., He, T., Wang, Q., Hu, C., Lam, J. C. W., & Lam, P. K. S. (2019). Organic ultraviolet (UV) filters in the South China sea coastal region: Environmental occurrence, toxicological effects and risk assessment. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 181, 26-33. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2019.05.075


  • Coastal pollution
  • Marine pollution
  • South China Sea
  • Pearl River Delta (PRD)
  • Estuary