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Keywords:

  • Bioaccumulation;
  • Biota–sediment accumulation factor;
  • Biomagnification;
  • In vivo;
  • Trophic magnification factor

Abstract

A primary consideration in the evaluation of chemicals is the potential for substances to be absorbed and retained in an organism's tissues (i.e., bioaccumulated) at concentrations sufficient to pose health concerns. Substances that exhibit properties that enable biomagnification in the food chain (i.e., amplification of tissue concentrations at successive trophic levels) are of particular concern due to the elevated long-term exposures these substances pose to higher trophic organisms, including humans. Historically, biomarkers of in vivo chemical exposure (e.g., eggshell thinning, bill deformities) retrospectively led to the identification of such compounds, which were later categorized as persistent organic pollutants. Today, multiple bioaccumulation metrics are available to quantitatively assess the bioaccumulation potential of new and existing chemicals and identify substances that, upon or before environmental release, may be characterized as persistent organic pollutants. This paper reviews the various in vivo measurement approaches that can be used to assess the bioaccumulation of chemicals in aquatic or terrestrial species using laboratory-exposed, field-deployed, or collected organisms. Important issues associated with laboratory measurements of bioaccumulation include appropriate test species selection, test chemical dosing methods, exposure duration, and chemical and statistical analyses. Measuring bioaccumulation at a particular field site requires consideration of which test species to use and whether to examine natural populations or to use field-deployed populations. Both laboratory and field methods also require reliable determination of chemical concentrations in exposure media of interest (i.e., water, sediment, food or prey, etc.), accumulated body residues, or both. The advantages and disadvantages of various laboratory and field bioaccumulation metrics for assessing biomagnification potential in aquatic or terrestrial food chains are discussed. Guidance is provided on how to consider the uncertainty in these metrics and develop a weight-of-evidence evaluation that supports technically sound and consistent persistent organic pollutant and persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemical identification. Based on the bioaccumulation information shared in 8 draft risk profiles submitted for review under the United Nations Stockholm Convention, recommendations are given for the information that is most critical to aid transparency and consistency in decision making.