Phytotoxkit: A critical look at a rapid assessment tool



Terrestrial plant toxicity testing contributes critical information to many site risk assessments, but standardized tests can be labor-intensive, use large amounts of soil, and employ long test durations. The Phytotoxkit (MicroBioTests, Environmental Bio-Detection Products) minimizes the time and cost associated with terrestrial plant testing with a unique test setup, a shorter test duration, and less soil. However, the sensitivity of the test remains an open question. In this research, the Phytotoxkit and the standardized Environment Canada terrestrial plant toxicity test (definitive test) are compared using a parallel testing approach. Three different scenarios were examined: a multiconcentration test, in which an inhibiting concentration (ICp) was derived from chemically amended soils; a soil remediation test, in which plant growth in a remediated soil was compared to the original contaminated soil; and a site soil test, in which plant growth in a contaminated soil was compared to a reference soil. The contaminants tested were boric acid, Cr(VI) with cyclodextrin as a remediation agent, and petroleum hydrocarbons. Trifolium pratense (red clover) was used in the first and second scenarios, and six different plant species were used in the third scenario. In the first scenario, the Phytotoxkit results compared well with the definitive test results after 5 and 7 d of exposure. In the second scenario, the Phytotoxkit results agreed with the definitive test when evaluating the effectiveness of remediation. In the third scenario, the Phytotoxkit results were often not in agreement with the results from the definitive test. The reduced sensitivity of the Phytotoxkit in the third scenario may be driven by test unit design, as plant roots are separated from soil by filter paper. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2012;31:316–323. © 2011 SETAC