Species sensitivity distribution evaluation for selenium in fish eggs: Considerations for development of a Canadian tissue-based guideline



A freshwater Se guideline was developed for consideration based on concentrations in fish eggs or ovaries, with a focus on Canadian species, following the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment protocol for developing guideline values. When sufficient toxicity data are available, the protocol recommends deriving guidelines as the 5th percentile of the species sensitivity distribution (SSD). When toxicity data are limited, the protocol recommends a lowest value approach, where the lowest toxicity threshold is divided by a safety factor (e.g., 10). On the basis of a comprehensive review of the current literature and an assessment of the data therein, there are sufficient egg and ovary Se data available for freshwater fish to develop an SSD. For most fish species, Se EC10 values (10% effect concentrations) could be derived, but for some species, only no-observed-effect concentrations and/or lowest-observed-effect concentrations could be identified. The 5th percentile egg and ovary Se concentrations from the SSD were consistently 20 µg/g dry weight (dw) for the best-fitting distributions. In contrast, the lowest value approach using a safety factor of 10 would result in a Se egg and ovary guideline of 2 µg/g dw, which is unrealistically conservative, as this falls within the range of egg and ovary Se concentrations in laboratory control fish and fish collected from reference sites. An egg and ovary Se guideline of 20 µg/g dw should be considered a conservative, broadly applicable guideline, as no species mean toxicity thresholds lower than this value have been identified to date. When concentrations exceed this guideline, site-specific studies with local fish species, conducted using a risk-based approach, may result in higher egg and ovary Se toxicity thresholds. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2012;8:6–12. © 2011 SETAC