Differences in bioavailability among sediments are a source of variability and uncertainty in sediment quality assessment. We present three sets of studies designed to test a thin-film solid phase extraction technique for characterizing the bioavailability of organic chemicals in sediments. Laboratory studies with spiked natural sediments reveal highly reproducible thin-film extractions for chemicals with octanol–water partition coefficients between 104.5 and 108.5, with 95% equilibration times between 1 and 600 h. Studies with field-collected sediments illustrate that method detection limits are sufficiently low for field application at contaminated sites. Bioaccumulation studies with clams (Macoma balthica) show excellent correlations between thin-film and animal tissue concentrations. We conclude that thin-film extraction provides an ecologically relevant, fugacity-based measure of chemical exposure that can be expected to improve sediment quality assessments.
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