Aldrin in freshwater and marine water

​​​​Toxicant default guideline values for protecting aquatic ecosystems

October 2000

Extracted from Section 8.3.7 ‘Detailed descriptions of chemicals’ of the ANZECC & ARMCANZ (2000) guidelines.

The default guideline values (previously known as ‘trigger values’) and associated information in this technical brief should be used in accordance with the detailed guidance provided in the Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality.

Most organochlorine pesticides have been phased out of use in recent years, mainly because of their residual properties and potential for bioaccumulation. The guideline trigger values stated are for toxicity only and need to be adjusted for bioaccumulation where appropriate. Where the statistical distribution method was used, figures quoted are the 95% protection levels, usually applicable to slightly to moderately disturbed systems although 99% protection figures are recommended for chemicals that bioaccumulate.

Aldrin (CAS 903-00-2) is a cyclodiene insecticide. Its chemical name is 1,2,3,4,10,10-hexachloro-1,4,4a,5,8,8a-hexahydro-1,4-endo-exo-5,8-dimethanonaphthalene. Its formula is C12H8Cl6 and molecular weight is 364.9. It has low solubility in water (27 µg/L at 27°C) and its log Kow is 3.01, although it is commonly considered to bioaccumulate. Aldrin was used in Australia in sugar cane and against termites under houses and in fences (Kannan et al. 1994). It was restricted to sub-floor termite control only in 1987 and withdrawn from use in 1994. Aldrin is rapidly converted to the more toxic dieldrin by enzymatic oxidation in living organisms (Buchel 1983).

Aquatic toxicology

Aldrin has a very high toxicity to most fish and invertebrate species, although it is only moderately toxic to freshwater molluscs. Data on several species were removed as the figures exceeded the water solubility.

Freshwater fish: There was a wide variation in toxicity of aldrin to different species of fish: 16 spp, 48 to 96-hour LC50 of 0.9 to 53.0 µg/L. Additional outlying data on some species were removed, e.g. Saccobranchus fossilis (447 µg/L), Oryzias latipes (560 to 780 µg/L) and Clarius batrachus (1700 to 3500 µg/L), as these exceeded the water solubility by a large amount (> 2 times).

Freshwater amphibians: 2 spp, 48 to 96-hour LC50, of 68 and 2400 µg/L, exceeded water solubility.

Freshwater crustaceans: 9 spp, 48 to 96-hour LC50 of 0.1 to 50 µg/L. Outlying figures exceeding the water solubility were reported for Gammarus fasciatus (4300 to 5600 µg/L) and Paratelphusa masoniana (209,410 µg/L).

Freshwater insects: 6 spp, 48 to 96-hour LC50 of 1 to 42 µg/L.

Freshwater molluscs: 1 sp, 96-hour LC50, 2035 µg/L, which exceeded the solubility of aldrin.

Marine fish: 6 spp, 48 to 96-hour LC50, 2 to 40 µg/L. A 30-day chronic NOEC of 3.3 µg/L was reported for Fundulus heteroclitus (larval development), not greatly different from the 96-hour LC50.

Marine crustaceans: 5 spp, 48 to 96-hour LC50, 0.32 to 33 µg/L. Shrimp (2 spp, 0.32 to 9.00 µg/L) and the crab Paratelphusa jacquemontii (0.097 to 0.210 µg/L) were most sensitive and other crabs, least, although data for several species were removed as the figures exceeded the water solubility.

Marine molluscs: 1 sp, 96-hour EC50 (growth) of 15 µg/L.

Factors affecting toxicity

Toxicity of aldrin was not significantly affected by hardness or temperature (Johnson & Finley 1980), although its toxicity to Pimephales promelas increased by 1.7 times with an increase from 7°C to 24°C.

Aldrin is bioaccumulated in invertebrates, up to 100,000 times in Daphnia magna at 16 ng/L and 22,800 to 34,000 times in insect larvae exposed to 21 ng/L (Johnson & Finley 1980).


Some data were removed because they were more than 2 times the water solubility.

A freshwater low reliability trigger value of 0.001 µg/L was derived for aldrin using an assessment factor (AF) of 100. A marine low reliability trigger value of 0.003 µg/L was derived using an AF of 100. These figures should only be used as indicative interim working concentrations.

These would need to be adjusted for bioaccumulation but the AF method does not readily allow for this.


ANZECC & ARMCANZ 2000. Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality, Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council and Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand, Canberra.

Buchel KH 1983. Chemistry of pesticides. John Wiley & Sons, New York.

Johnson WW & Finley MT 1980. Handbook of acute toxicity of chemicals to fish and aquatic invertebrates. US Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, No 137, Washington DC.

Kannan K, Tanabe S, Williams RJ & Tatsukawa R 1994. Persistent organochlorine residues in foodstuffs from Australia, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands: Contamination levels and human dietary exposure. Science of the Total Environment