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Mar Environ Res. 2008 Jul;66(1):218-20. doi: 10.1016/j.marenvres.2008.02.064. Epub 2008 Feb 26.

Evaluation of bioavailable hydrocarbon sources and their induction potential in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

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  • 1University of California Davis, Davis, CA, USA.


To realistically evaluate the consequences of exposure to a complex mixture, we modified a passive sampler technology, the semipermeable membrane device (SPMD), which absorbs the bioavailable hydrophobic organic compounds present in an environment. These samplers were deployed in Prince William Sound (PWS), Alaska, at locations selected as potential sites of hydrocarbon deposition, as well as in random sites for regional assessment. Some of these sites were affected by previous human activity, such as canneries and salmon hatcheries, while others were sites of oil discharge as a consequence of the 1964 earthquake or the oil spill of T/V Exxon Valdez in 1989. The SPMDs were deployed for 27-28 d, processed, and then split, with one aliquot dedicated to chemical analysis and the other injected into juvenile rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), along with the proper controls including a solvent control, field blank, and positive control. Trout fry were sacrificed after 2 or 7d, and their livers assayed for CYP1A induction by the standard bioassay for hydrocarbon exposure, the ethoxyresorufin-o-deethylase (EROD) assay. The results of this study were consistent and reproducible and showed that oil, whether deposited in 1964 or 1989, is still bioavailable as it can elicit as sustained response. Also, the same oil deposited in different sites of the same region has degraded differently, which is demonstrated by this method. Other putative sources of hydrocarbons, such as oil seeps, were dismissed as regional sources of induction agents as the responses following injection of modified SPMD extract from those sites did not differ significantly from the solvent control. This is a flexible, sensitive method that assesses the response to site-specific bioavailable contaminants and does so within the normal physiological response range of the target.

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