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Comparing laboratory and field measured bioaccumulation endpoints



An approach for comparing laboratory and field measures of bioaccumulation is presented to facilitate the interpretation of different sources of bioaccumulation data. Differences in numerical scales and units are eliminated by converting the data to dimensionless fugacity (or concentration-normalized) ratios. The approach expresses bioaccumulation metrics in terms of the equilibrium status of the chemical, with respect to a reference phase. When the fugacity ratios of the bioaccumulation metrics are plotted, the degree of variability within and across metrics is easily visualized for a given chemical because their numerical scales are the same for all endpoints. Fugacity ratios greater than 1 indicate an increase in chemical thermodynamic activity in organisms with respect to a reference phase (e.g., biomagnification). Fugacity ratios less than 1 indicate a decrease in chemical thermodynamic activity in organisms with respect to a reference phase (e.g., biodilution). This method provides a holistic, weight-of-evidence approach for assessing the biomagnification potential of individual chemicals because bioconcentration factors, bioaccumulation factors, biota–sediment accumulation factors, biomagnification factors, biota–suspended solids accumulation factors, and trophic magnification factors can be included in the evaluation. The approach is illustrated using a total 2393 measured data points from 171 reports, for 15 nonionic organic chemicals that were selected based on data availability, a range of physicochemical partitioning properties, and biotransformation rates. Laboratory and field fugacity ratios derived from the various bioaccumulation metrics were generally consistent in categorizing substances with respect to either an increased or decreased thermodynamic status in biota, i.e., biomagnification or biodilution, respectively. The proposed comparative bioaccumulation endpoint assessment method could therefore be considered for decision making in a chemicals management context. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2012;8:17–31. © 2011 SETAC