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Rev Environ Contam Toxicol. 2013;224:97-175. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4614-5882-1_4.

Methods for deriving pesticide aquatic life criteria for sediments.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Toxicology, University of California, Davis, CA, USA. tlfojut@ucdavis.edu


In this review, we evaluated three main current approaches for deriving sediment quality guidelines: empirical, mechanistic (equilibrium partitioning), and spiked sediment toxicity testing approaches. Empirical approaches determine ranges of sediment concentrations that are likely or unlikely to cause toxicity, based on large datasets of matching sediment chemistry, field, and laboratory toxicity data. The empirical approaches are not suitable for determining SQC for specific pesticides because (I) direct cause-effect relationships between single sediment contaminants and toxicity cannot be discerned; (2) chemistry measurements have not accounted for bioavailability, which leads to numeric values with high uncertainty and low reliability; and (3) for many pesticides, little or no matching chemistry and toxicity data are available. In the EqP approach, SQC are derived by entering existing aquatic toxicity data into the equilibrium-partitioning model. This approach is practical for pesticides with water quality criteria in place, but the assumption of equilibrium in aquatic ecosystems is questionable, and the EqP approach neglects available sediment toxicity data. The SSTT approaches utilize sediment toxicity data, creating a scientifically defensible foundation for SQC, but experimental uncertainties regarding spiking technique and equilibration times are yet to be eliminated. The species sensitivity distribution approach generates criteria with confidence intervals, providing a measure of uncertainty, but requires relatively large datasets, whereas the assessment factor method lacks quantification of uncertainty but only requires few data to calculate conservative criteria. Several existing methodologies incorporate a combination of approaches that is dependent on data availability and the physicochemical properties of the compound of interest.A summary of the differences and similarities between key elements of the seven methodologies emphasized in this review is displayed in Table 6. One important element regarding sediment contamination is the incorporation of bioavailability and multiple exposure routes, which must be addressed to achieve a technically defensible methodology. It is crucial that bioavailability be incorporated in both criteria derivation and compliance determination (sampling) to ensure that data are comparable. Recent research on bioavailability of sediment contaminants has indicated that the freely dissolved pore water fraction corresponds well with uptake and toxicity. For species having significant exposure via ingestion of contaminated food and/or sediments and/or direct sediment contact, exposure may be underpredicted if these additional exposure routes are overlooked. Future SQC methodologies will be greatly improved by accounting for factors relevant for bioavailability and exposure pathways. To develop a completely new methodology, existing methodologies offer valuable building blocks that are well suited for adaptation. A new method will be more reliable and robust if it utilizes more refined risk assessments than currently are available in existing methodologies. To date, the most comprehensive methodologies for deriving single numeric SQC are those of the Netherlands and the EU,which include both SSTT and EqP approaches.

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