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Keywords:

  • Sediment quality guideline;
  • Fish consumption;
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs);
  • Dioxins–furans;
  • Biota sediment accumulation factor (BSAF)

Abstract

Sediment quality thresholds (SQTs) are used by a variety of agencies to assess the potential for adverse impact of sediment-associated contaminants on aquatic biota, typically benthic invertebrates. However, sedimentary contaminants can also result in elevated fish contaminant levels, triggering consumption advisories that are protective of humans. As such, SQTs that would result in fish concentrations below consumption advisory levels should also be considered. To illustrate how this can be addressed, we first calculate biota sediment accumulation factors (BSAFs) for polychlorinated biphenyls (total PCB) and polychlorinated dioxins–furans (PCDD/Fs) in the Canadian Great Lakes using measured lake sediment and fish tissue concentrations in 4 fish species, namely, lake trout, whitefish, rainbow trout, and channel catfish. Using these BSAFs and tissue residue values for fish consumption advisories employed by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (OMOE, Canada), we derive fish consumption advisory-based SQTs (fca-SQTs) that are likely to result in fish tissue residues that are safe to eat without restriction. The PCDD/Fs fca-SQTs ranged from 6 to 128 pg toxic equivalents (TEQ)/g dry weight (dw) and were above the Canadian Council of the Ministers of the Environment (CCME) threshold effect level (TEL) of 0.85 pg TEQ/g dw. In contrast, the total PCB fca-SQTs ranged from 1 to 60 ng/g dw and were generally below the CCME's TEL of 34.1 ng/g and OMOE's lowest effect level (LEL) of 70 ng/g; however, they were consistent with the OMOE's no effect level (NEL) of 10 ng/g. The fca-SQTs derived using the BSAF as well as food chain multiplier (FCM) approach for a smaller scale system (Hamilton Harbour in Lake Ontario) corresponded well with average lakewide Lake Ontario fca-SQTs. This analysis provides approximate sediment concentrations necessary for reducing fish consumption advisories for each of the Canadian Great Lakes and emphasizes the impacts of historical lake sediment contamination on fish advisories. We believe that this approach merits consideration in sediment guideline development. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2010;6:641–652. © 2010 SETAC