Review of the toxic effects of ionic liquids


Interest in ionic liquids (ILs), called green or designer solvents, has been increasing because of their excellent properties such as thermal stability and low vapor pressure; thus, they can replace harmful organic chemicals and help several industrial fields e.g., energy-storage materials production and biomaterial pretreatment. However, the claim that ILs are green solvents should be carefully considered from an environmental perspective. ILs, given their minimal vapor pressure, may not directly cause atmospheric pollution. However, they have the potential to cause adverse effects if leaked into the environment, for instance if they are spilled due to human mistakes or technical errors. To estimate the risks of ILs, numerous ILs have had their toxicity assessed toward several micro- and macro-organisms over the past few decades. Since the toxic effects of ILs depend on the method of estimating toxicity, it is necessary to briefly summarize and comprehensively discuss the biological effects of ILs according to their structure and toxicity testing levels. This can help simplify our understanding of the toxicity of ILs. Therefore, in this review, we discuss the key findings of toxicological information of ILs, collect some toxicity data of ILs to different species, and explain the influence of IL structure on their toxic properties. In the discussion, we estimated two different sensitivity values of toxicity testing levels depending on the experiment condition, which are theoretical magnitudes of the inherent sensitivity of toxicity testing levels in various conditions and their changes in biological response according to the change in IL structure. Finally, some perspectives, future research directions, and limitations to toxicological research of ILs, presented so far, are discussed.

Authors: Chul-Woong Cho, Thi Phuong Thuy Pham, Yufeng Zhao, Stefan Stolte, Yeoung-Sang Yun
; Full Source: The Science of the total environment 2021 Apr 30;786:147309. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.147309.