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Environ Sci Technol. 2006 Mar 1;40(5):1573-80.

Estimating the impact of high-production-volume chemicals on remote ecosystems by toxic pressure calculation.

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Department of Environmental Science, Institute for Wetland and Water Research, Faculty of Science, Radboud University Nijmegen, P.O. Box 9010, 6500GL Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Although many chemicals are in use, the environmental impacts of only a few have been established, usually on per-chemical basis. Uncertainty remains about the overall impact of chemicals. This paper estimates combined toxic pressure on coastal North Sea ecosystems from 343 high-production-volume chemicals used within the catchment of rivers Rhine, Meuse, and Scheldt. Multimedia fate modeling and species sensitivity distribution-based effects estimation are applied. Calculations start from production volumes and emission rates and use physicochemical substance properties and aquatic ecotoxicity data. Parameter uncertainty is addressed by Monte Carlo simulations. Results suggest that the procedure is technically feasible. Combined toxic pressure of all 343 chemicals in coastal North Seawater is 0.025 (2.5% of the species are exposed to concentration levels above EC50 values), with a wide confidence interval of nearly 0-1. This uncertainty appears to be largely due to uncertainties in interspecies variances of aquatic toxicities and, to a lesser extent, to uncertainties in emissions and degradation rates. Due to these uncertainties, the results support gross ranking of chemicals in categories: negligible and possibly relevant contributions only. With 95% confidence, 283 of the 343 chemicals (83%) contribute negligibly (less than 0.1%) to overall toxic pressure, and only 60 (17%) need further consideration.

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