The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (U.S. EPA) water quality criteria for Cu were tested to determine whether they protect fish against neurophysiological impairment. From published studies with rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), and fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas), 20% inhibition concentrations (IC20s) were calculated for avoidance of Cu-containing water and for impairment of electroencephalogram (EEG) and electro-olfactogram (EOG) responses to natural odorants in Cu-containing water. Additionally, a Cu-olfactory biotic ligand model (BLM) that fits the coho salmon EOG data was parameterized by changing the sensitivity parameter in the ionoregulatory-based BLM. The IC20s calculated from reported Cu avoidance, EEG, and EOG data and IC20s predicted by the olfactory BLM were compared with acute and chronic Cu criteria calculated using U.S. EPA's BLM 2007 or hardness-adjustment equations. The BLM-based chronic criteria were protective in all 16 exposure water–species combinations used in avoidance and olfaction experiments. Additionally, the BLM-based acute criteria were protective in all 11 exposure water–species combinations in which comparisons could be made with olfactory BLM-predicted IC20s but not in two of the 16 exposure water–species combinations in which comparisons could be made with the reported IC20s (which were ≤8% lower than but did not differ significantly from the BLM-based acute criteria; p > 0.05). In effect, the olfactory BLM factored out the relatively high variability in the reported IC20s. It is concluded that the U.S. EPA's BLM-based water quality criteria for Cu protect against these types of neurophysiological impairment in the six species–endpoint combinations analyzed in this paper. However, the U.S. EPA's hardness-based criteria for Cu sometimes were considerably underprotective and sometimes were much less protective than the BLM-based criteria. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:2096–2103. © 2010 SETAC
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