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Understanding bioavailability and toxicity of sediment-associated contaminants by combining passive sampling with in vitro bioassays in an urban river catchment



Bioavailable and bioaccessible fractions of sediment-associated contaminants are considered as better dose metrics for sediment-quality assessment than total concentrations. The authors applied exhaustive solvent extraction and nondepletive equilibrium sampling techniques to sediment samples collected along the Brisbane River in South East Queensland, Australia, which range from pristine environments to urban and industry-impacted areas. The wide range of chemicals expected prevents comprehensive chemical analysis, but a battery of cell-based bioassays sheds light on mixture effects of chemicals in relation to various modes of toxic action. Toxic effects were expressed as bioanalytical equivalent concentrations (BEQs) normalized to the organic carbon content of each sediment sample. Bioanalytical equivalent concentrations from exhaustive extraction agreed fairly well with values estimated from polydimethylsiloxane passive sampling extracts via the constant organic carbon to polydimethylsiloxane partition coefficient. Agreement was best for bioassays indicative of photosynthesis inhibition and oxidative stress response and discrepancy within a factor of 3 for the induction of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor. For nonspecific cytotoxicity, BEQ from exhaustive extraction were 1 order of magnitude higher than values from equilibrium sampling, possibly because of coextraction of bioactive natural organic matter that led to an overestimation of toxicity in the exhaustive extracts, which suggests that passive sampling is better suited in combination with bioanalytical assessment than exhaustive extraction. Environ Toxicol Chem 2013;32:2888–2896. © 2013 SETAC