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An evaluation of methods for calculating mean sediment quality guideline quotients as indicators of contamination and acute toxicity to amphipods by chemical mixtures



Mean sediment quality guideline quotients (mean SQGQs) were developed to represent the presence of chemical mixtures in sediments and are derived by normalizing a suite of chemicals to their respective numerical sediment quality guidelines (SQGs). Mean SQGQs incorporate the number of SQGs exceeded and the degree to which they are exceeded and are used for comparison with observed biological effects in the laboratory or field. The current research makes it clear, however, that the number and type of SQGs used in the derivation of these mean quotients can influence the ability of mean SQGQ values to correctly predict acute toxicity to marine amphipods in laboratory toxicity tests. To determine the optimal predictive ability of mean SQGQs, a total of 18 different chemical combinations were developed and compared. The ability of each set of mean SQGQs to correctly predict the presence and absence of acute toxicity to amphipods was determined using three independent databases (n = 605, 2753, 226). Calculated mean SQGQ values for all chemical combinations ranged from 0.002 to 100. The mean SQGQ that was most predictive of acute toxicity to amphipods is calculated as SQGQ1 = ((γ ([cadmium]/4.21)([copper]/270)([lead]/112.18)([silver]/1.77)([zinc]/410)([total chlordane]/6)([dieldrin]/8)([total PAHoc]/1,800)([total PCB]/400))/9). Both the incidence and magnitude of acute toxicity to amphipods increased with increasing SQGQ1 values. To provide better comparability between regions and national surveys, SQGQ1 is recommended to serve as the standard method for combination of chemicals and respective SQGs when calculating mean SQGQs.