Pollutants That Affect Brine Shrimp

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Many pollutants destroy brine shrimp and have a negative impact on the aquatic food chain.
Many pollutants destroy brine shrimp and have a negative impact on the aquatic food chain. (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Brine shrimp are tiny crustaceans that live near the surface of saltwater or brackish water lakes, ponds and seas. Brine shrimp are low on the food chain, feeding on phytoplankton as they swim through the water before becoming food for various types of fish. Brine shrimp and other aquatic organisms are able to adapt to a variety of factors in their environment, but some pollutants change the chemical composition of the water so much it becomes fatal to brine shrimp, affecting the food chain.

Bleach

Bleach is a common household agent that becomes a water pollutant when washed down drains and sewer systems that empty into rivers, streams and oceans. Bleach is a caustic agent that attacks mucous membranes and burns the skin of organisms. Bleach damages the skin of brine shrimp, leaving them susceptible to pathogens, or germs. Brine shrimp die after being exposed to even small amounts of bleach in water.

Ammonia

Ammonia contains powerful, toxic fumes that reduce the amount of available oxygen in its vicinity. Ammonia enters the bodies of the brine shrimp as they swim through the water, causing suffocation and internal organ damage. Ammonia in water causes reduced growth rate, elevated blood pH levels and increased susceptibility to disease. Ammonia damages the gills of brine shrimp, lowering the capacity to process oxygen through the body, leading to diminished energy and gradual death of the organism.

Sulfuric Acid

Brine shrimp thrive at an optimal pH level of 8. Sulfuric acid lowers the pH level of water. Brine shrimp swallow the altered water, which alters the ionic processing of protein molecules within the brine shrimp's body which in turn disrupts the structure of the enzymes that fuel the shrimp. Sulfuric acid also burns and corrodes the skin of brine shrimp. The combined effects of sulfuric acid cause the brine shrimp to die quickly.

Heavy Metals

Heavy metals such as copper, mercury, lead, silver and nickel are all toxic to brine shrimp. Heavy metals act as inhibitors that bind to the enzyme molecules that help process food in brine shrimp. The brine shrimp's metabolic rate is disturbed, its body is unable to effectively break down plankton and transfer it into energy for the shrimp and the shrimp dies.

Detergent

Laundry detergent contains proteases, which help remove protein-based stains, and lipase, which remove grease stains from fabrics. After a wash cycle, the detergent is rinsed down the drain and eventually enters the natural waterways and oceans. The cell membranes of brine shrimp contain a large number of protein molecules and lipids, which become damaged by the proteases and lipase found in common laundry detergents.

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