Can we reduce the number of fish in the OECD acute toxicity test?



OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Guideline 203, Fish Acute Toxicity Test, states that the test should be performed using at least five concentrations in a geometric series with a separation factor not exceeding 2.2, with at least seven fish per concentration. However, the efficiency of this design can be questioned, because it often results in only one concentration that causes partial mortality (mortality >0% and <100%). We performed Monte Carlo computer simulations to assess whether more efficient designs could allow reductions in fish use. Simulations indicated that testing with six fish per concentration could yield 50% lethal concentration (LC50) estimates of quality similar to those obtained using seven fish. Experts attending a workshop organized to consider this finding and to identify the best methods for reducing fish use concluded that significant reductions could best be achieved by modifying the test paradigm. They suggested initiating testing using a 96-h fish embryo test instead of juvenile fish to cover the range from the upper threshold concentration (the lowest 50% effective concentration [EC50] in existing algae and daphnia studies) to the highest concentration with no mortality. This would be followed by a confirmatory limit test with juvenile fish at the highest concentration with no mortality or by a full test with juvenile fish, if a point estimate of the LC50 is required. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2011; 30:1006–1011. © 2010 SETAC