Aqueous extracts of tar from a coal gasification electrostatic precipitator were tested for its toxic and teratogenic potential in vitro on embryos of the amphibian Xenopus laevis. The 96-h LC50 and EC50 were determined to be 0.83% and 0.48%, respectively. The developmental stage of normal-appearing exposed embryos is not affected by increasing concentrations of the extract. Embryo growth, however, is significantly reduced at concentrations as low as 0.25%. Motility and pigmentation were effectively reduced relative to controls by extract concentrations of 0.5% and greater. Exposed embryos are shorter and stockier than controls. Malformations of head, eyes, viscera, and spine are common, and cartilage formation is abnormal. The epidermis is often hyperplastic, and large blisters occur over the somatic surface. The severity of abnormal development is directly related to the concentration of the toxicant to which the embryos are exposed. Chemical analysis shows that the aqueous extracts contain phenols, furans, monoaromatic and diaromatic hydrocarbons, and mono- and diazaarenes and/or monoaromatic amines.
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