The present study was undertaken to evaluate the toxicity of aluminum sulfate, ferric chloride and their 1:1 mixture (Mix) on early development, fertilization and offspring quality in three sea urchins species (Sphaerechinus granularis, Paracentrotus lividus, Psammechinus microtuberculatus) and in mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis). The endpoints were the following: a) larval malformations; b) developmental arrest; cf embryonic mortality; d) fertilization success; e) cytogenetic effects, and f) luminol-dependent chemiluminescence (LDCL). Overall data point to the induction of developmental defects in both sea urchin and mussel embryos following exposure of embryos to Al(III) or Fe(III) (10(-7) to 10(-6) M), whereas Mix caused varied effects vs. Al(III) or Fe(III) alone, from scarce or no additive effects (M. galloprovincialis and P. lividus) to a dramatic rise in embryolethality even at nominal levels of 10(-8) M (Ps. microtuberculus). S. granularis sperm underwent a dose-dependent decrease in fertilization success following exposure to Al(III), or Fe(III), or Mix at levels ranging from 10(-8) to 10(-5) M. A significant increase of developmental defects was observed in the offspring of S. granularis sperm exposed to micromolar levels of the agents, suggesting an Al(III)- and Fe(III)-related transmissible damage to sperm. The cytogenetic analysis of Al(III)-, Fe(III)-, or Mix-exposed S. granularis embryos showed a significant increase in mitotic aberrations. A relevant feature of the observed cytogenetic damage included scattered chromosomes, suggesting cytoskeleton damage. The LDCL emission in S. granularis embryos showed a dose-related inhibition by agent levels ranging from 10(-1) to 10(-5) M; this held true for both spontaneous and, to a larger extent, for horseradish peroxidase (HRP)-activated LDCL. LDCL associated with fertilization was affected by Al(III), Fe(III) and Mix, with a time- and dose-related shift from stimulation to inhibition. The changes observed in LDCL emission suggested that the observed damage to embryogenesis, fertilization and mitotic activity may be related, at least partly, to alterations of the embryo prooxidant state. The present data point to developmental, cytogenetic and biochemical changes related to realistic levels of AI(III), Fe(III) and their mixtures, raising concern as to their environmental, occupational and iatrogenic exposures.