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Development and Application of Sediment Toxicity Tests for Regulatory Purposes

Water Quality Control

  1. M.G.J. Hartl,
  2. F.N.A.M. van Pelt,
  3. J. O'Halloran

Published Online: 15 JUL 2005

DOI: 10.1002/047147844X.wq291

Water Encyclopedia

Water Encyclopedia

How to Cite

Hartl, M., van Pelt, F. and O'Halloran, J. 2005. Development and Application of Sediment Toxicity Tests for Regulatory Purposes. Water Encyclopedia. 2:383–387.

Author Information

  1. Environmental Research Institute, University College Cork, Ireland

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 JUL 2005


Undisturbed sediments tend to accumulate many chemical compounds, and so act as both as sinks of sources of contaminants. Currently, the ecotoxicological assessment of sediments is mainly restricted to chemical analysis and acute toxicity testing using microorganisms. Sediments are not homogenous, but are composed of whole sediment, sediment-water interface, pore water, and elutriate. Examination of any single sediment phase may be insufficient to give an accurate ecotoxicological assessment. A comprehensive assessment of potential sediment toxicity requires the consideration of multiple exposure phases and multiple test models representing different trophic levels. We recommend that sediment toxicity assessments should be further developed and evaluated to be used in a tiered approach, consisting of screening using short-term general toxicity tests (Tier 1); hazard identification applying more specific (multiple) endpoints in multiorganism experiments, representing different trophic levels and habitats associated with sediments, as well as different modes of bioavailability by using both sediment extracts and whole sediments (Tier 2); and in situ ecosystem function, e.g., lifetime reproductive success, and components of biodiversity (Tier 3). Here we summarize some of the key sediment toxicity test systems in use and/or under development.


  • sediment;
  • toxicity;
  • contaminant;
  • assessment;
  • multiple endpoints;
  • tiered approach;
  • multispecies;
  • multitrophic;
  • pore water;
  • elutriates