The toxicity of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to Hyalella azteca, was measured in 34 sediment samples collected from four manufactured-gas plant (MGP) sites ranging in total PAH16 (sum of 16 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency priority pollutant PAHs) concentrations from 4 to 5,700 mg/kg, total organic carbon content from 0.6 to 11%, and soot carbon from 0.2 to 5.1%. The survival and growth of H. azteca in 28-d bioassays were unrelated to total PAH concentration, with 100% survival in one sediment having 1,730 mg/kg total PAH16, whereas no survival was observed in sediment samples with concentrations as low as 54 mg/kg total PAH16. Twenty-five of the 34 sediment samples exceeded the probable effects concentration screening value of 22.8 mg/kg total PAH13 (sum of 13 PAHs) and equilibrium partitioning sediment benchmarks for PAH mixtures (on the basis of the measurement of 18 parent PAHs and 16 groups of alkylated PAHs, [PAH34]); yet, 19 (76%) of the 25 samples predicted to be toxic were not toxic to H. azteca. However, the toxicity of PAHs to H. azteca was accurately predicted when either the rapidly released concentrations as determined by mild supercritical fluid extraction (SFE) or the pore-water concentrations were used to establish the bioavailability of PAHs. These results demonstrate that the PAHs present in many sediments collected from MGP sites have low bioavailability and that both the measurement of the rapidly released PAH concentrations with mild SFE and the dissolved pore-water concentrations of PAHs are useful tools for estimating chronic toxicity to H. azteca.
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