• Contaminated sediments;
  • Passive sampling methods;
  • Bioavailability;
  • Freely dissolved concentration;
  • Risk-based decision making


Contaminated sediments pose an ongoing, pervasive, global challenge to environmental managers, because sediments can reflect a legacy of pollution that can impair the beneficial uses of water bodies. A formidable challenge in assessing the risks of contaminated sediments has been the elucidation and measurement of contaminant bioavailability, expressed as the freely dissolved concentration (Cfree) in interstitial water, which serves as a surrogate measure of the substances' chemical activity. Recent advances in passive sampling methods (PSMs) enable Cfree of sediment-associated contaminants to be quantified at trace levels, thereby overcoming current limitations of predictive models. As a result, PSMs afford the opportunity for a paradigm shift from traditional practice that can effectively reduce uncertainty in risk assessment and bolster confidence in the science used to support management of contaminated sediments. This paper provides a brief overview of the 5 subsequent papers in this series that review literature on PSM use in sediments for both organic and metal(loid) contaminants, outline the technical rationale for using PSMs as a preferred basis for risk assessment over conventional chemical analyses, describe practical considerations for and uncertainties associated with laboratory and field deployment of PSMs, discuss management application of PSMs, including illustrative case studies in which PSMs have been used in decision making, and highlight future research and communication needs. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2014;10:163–166. © 2013 SETAC