Passive sampling methods for contaminated sediments: Practical guidance for selection, calibration, and implementation


  • EDITOR'S NOTE: This paper represents 1 of 6 papers in the special series “Passive Sampling Methods for Contaminated Sediments,” which was generated from the SETAC Technical Workshop “Guidance on Passive Sampling Methods to Improve Management of Contaminated Sediments,” held November 2012 in Costa Mesa, California, USA. Recent advances in passive sampling methods (PSMs) offer an improvement in risk-based decision making, since bioavailability of sediment contaminants can be directly quantified. Forty-five experts, representing PSM developers, users, and decision makers from academia, government, and industry, convened to review the state of science to gain consensus on PSM applications in assessing and supporting management actions on contaminated sediments.


This article provides practical guidance on the use of passive sampling methods (PSMs) that target the freely dissolved concentration (Cfree) for improved exposure assessment of hydrophobic organic chemicals in sediments. Primary considerations for selecting a PSM for a specific application include clear delineation of measurement goals for Cfree, whether laboratory-based “ex situ” and/or field-based “in situ” application is desired, and ultimately which PSM is best-suited to fulfill the measurement objectives. Guidelines for proper calibration and validation of PSMs, including use of provisional values for polymer–water partition coefficients, determination of equilibrium status, and confirmation of nondepletive measurement conditions are defined. A hypothetical example is described to illustrate how the measurement of Cfree afforded by PSMs reduces uncertainty in assessing narcotic toxicity for sediments contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The article concludes with a discussion of future research that will improve the quality and robustness of Cfree measurements using PSMs, providing a sound scientific basis to support risk assessment and contaminated sediment management decisions. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2014;10:210–223. © 2014 The Authors. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of SETAC.