Evaluating the aquatic toxicity of complex organic chemical mixtures: Lessons learned from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon and petroleum hydrocarbon case studies



Experimental designs for evaluating complex mixture toxicity in aquatic environments can be highly variable and, if not appropriate, can produce and have produced data that are difficult or impossible to interpret accurately. We build on and synthesize recent critical reviews of mixture toxicity using lessons learned from 4 case studies, ranging from binary to more complex mixtures of primarily polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and petroleum hydrocarbons, to provide guidance for evaluating the aquatic toxicity of complex mixtures of organic chemicals. Two fundamental requirements include establishing a dose-response relationship and determining the causative agent (or agents) of any observed toxicity. Meeting these 2 requirements involves ensuring appropriate exposure conditions and measurement endpoints, considering modifying factors (e.g., test conditions, test organism life stages and feeding behavior, chemical transformations, mixture dilutions, sorbing phases), and correctly interpreting dose-response relationships. Specific recommendations are provided. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2012; 8: 217–230. © 2011 SETAC