Environmental quality criteria (EQC) for hydrophobic organic chemicals were calculated with a model for bioaccumulation in food webs. The model was calibrated and verified using polychlorinated biphenyl concentrations in food webs of shallow lakes. The EQCs in water and sediment were derived based on internal effect concentrations (IECs) for several modes of toxic action. By reverse calculation with the food web model for each organism in the web, a different water or sediment concentration is calculated corresponding to the IEC in each organism. A statistical procedure with an acute-to-chronic value is used to derive chronic EQCs based on bioaccumulation. The model-based chronic EQCs were compared with previously established EQCs. The EQCs calculated with the food web model generally are within an order of magnitude of the previously derived EQCs based on toxicity data on individual chemicals. Some previously derived EQCs are much lower than model predictions and usually based on small samples of toxicity data such as no-observed-effect concentrations (NOECs) with large assessment factors. When faced with data gaps, it is proposed to use model-based chronic EQCs for (polar) narcotic chemicals. Other modes of action require a different model concept to account for receptor-based toxicity.
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