Development of aquatic toxicity benchmarks for oil products using species sensitivity distributions


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Determining the sensitivity of a diversity of species to spilled oil and chemically dispersed oil continues to be a significant challenge in spill response and impact assessment. We used standardized tests from the literature to develop species sensitivity distributions (SSDs) of acute aquatic toxicity values for several petroleum products and 2 Corexit oil dispersants. Fifth percentile hazard concentrations (HC5s) were computed from the SSDs and used to assess relative oil product toxicity and in evaluating the feasibility of establishing toxicity benchmarks for a community of species. The sensitivity of mysids (Americamysis bahia) and silversides (Menidia beryllina) were evaluated within the SSDs to determine if these common test species were appropriate surrogates for a broader range of species. In general, SSD development was limited by the availability of acute toxicity values that met standardization criteria for a diversity of species. Pooled SSDs were also developed for crude oil and Corexit dispersants because there was only small variability in the HC5s among the individual oil or dispersant products. The sensitivity of mysids and silversides varied across the oil and dispersant products, with the majority of toxicity values greater than the HC5. Application of SSDs appears to be a reasonable approach to developing oil product toxicity benchmarks, but additional toxicity data are needed for a larger range of species conducted under standardized test conditions. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2013;9:610–615. © 2013 SETAC