What level of effect is a no observed effect?

Authors

  • Mark Crane,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 OEX, United Kingdom
    • School of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 OEX, United Kingdom
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  • Michael C. Newman

    1. Department of Environmental Sciences, The College of William and Mary, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Gloucester Point, Virginia 23062–1346, USA
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Abstract

The no observed effect concentration (NOEC) is currently a major summary statistic in ecotoxicity testing. Its use is heavily criticized, partly because it is a poor estimator of “safe” chemical concentrations. In this short communication, we review the limited information available on the percentage effect that corresponds with the NOEC, a value designated the ECNOEC, and calculate ECNOEC values for fish growth data. The average ECNOEC for different test protocols was found to vary widely, with values for chronic studies ranging from 10 to 34%. Individual results varied even more widely. This analysis suggests that the NOEC is neither a consistent summary statistic nor an indicator of safe concentrations of toxic chemicals.

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