Deriving freshwater guideline values for neonicotinoid insecticides: Implications for water quality guidelines and ecological risk assessment

Yolina Yu Lin Wang, Jingjing Xiong, Okugbe Ebiotubo Ohore, Yan Er Cai, Hailin Fan, Edmond Sanganyado, Ping Li, Jing You, Wenhua Liu, Zhen Wang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


The increased use of neonicotinoid insecticides in aquatic environments poses a significant threat to non-target freshwater species. However, the existing water quality guidelines (WQGs) for neonicotinoids mainly focus on imidacloprid, and only a few authoritative institutions have established WQGs for other neonicotinoids. There is a critical need to develop WQGs and conduct ecological risk assessment (ERA) of different neonicotinoids in global freshwater environments. In this study, we derived interim acute and chronic guideline values and acute-to-chronic ratios (ACRs) for six neonicotinoids based on publicly available acute and chronic toxicity data. The exposure concentrations of neonicotinoids were obtained from published literature worldwide, and ERA was conducted for neonicotinoids in global freshwater ecosystems using a tiered approach. The derived chronic guideline values (95% confidence interval (CI), ng/L) were 0.63 (0.02–5.47) for thiacloprid (the lowest) and 16.4 for dinotefuran (the highest). The identified ACRs (95% CI) ranged from 90.9 (47.0–180) to 957 (102–3350), which can be used to extrapolate scarce chronic data from the acute data. Neonicotinoid concentrations in global freshwater were predicted from 10.6 (6.88–23.4) (thiacloprid) to 339 (211–786) ng/L (thiamethoxam). The estimated risk quotients ranged from 3.23 (dinotefuran) to 21.73 (thiacloprid), and the probability of exceeding WQGs ranged from 27.1% (dinotefuran) to 77.1% (thiacloprid). The ERA results indicated that the six neonicotinoids posed negligible acute risks but high chronic risks to global freshwater ecosystems, especially acetamiprid (65.8%) and thiacloprid (28.1%). The key findings of this study provide critical scientific information regarding the ecological risks of long-term neonicotinoid exposure and key insights for policy development and water quality control.

Original languageEnglish
Article number154569
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date15 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes


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