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July/August 2010
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Coping with the Effects

Guidance from an ASTM Committee for Assessing Toxicity to Organisms

ASTM Committee E47 on Biological Effects and Environmental Fate has produced approximately 80 standards. Many are directly relevant to the situation in the Gulf of Mexico, namely, evaluating the effects of oil and dispersants in the open water column, sediments and the estuarine zones of the coastal wetlands. Several tests examine both toxicity to the organisms and bioaccumulation, providing information to evaluate food-chain exposures.

Most of the tests use indicator or surrogate species to establish concentration-response relationships to chemicals. Some tests use short-term (acute) exposure to focus on survival and selected growth parameters. Other tests use long-term (chronic) exposures that span one or more life cycles of the test species to evaluate reproductive, developmental and genotoxicity endpoints. As a group, the tests can be used to:

1. Determine the relationship between toxic effects and bioavailability,
2. Investigate interactions among chemicals (e.g., crude oil and dispersants),
3. Compare sensitivities of different organisms,
4. Determine spatial and temporal distribution of toxic responses,
5. Evaluate hazards of contaminated materials from beaches and marshes,
6. Rank areas for cleanup, and
7. Document the effectiveness of remediation.

Toxicity tests may be used in conjunction with the structure of in situ biological communities (the abundance of different species in an area) and measured concentrations of chemicals in the area to establish the relevance of observed toxic effects. Tests selected from the list below are likely to be used in the gulf to determine the magnitude of natural resource injury — a part of the natural resource damage assessment effort. The standards relate to species that live in marine waters, sediments or coastal wetlands:

  • E1367, Test Method for Measuring the Toxicity of Sediment-Associated Contaminants with Estuarine and Marine Invertebrates;
  • E1562, Guide for Conducting Acute, Chronic and Life-Cycle Aquatic Toxicity Tests with Polychaetous Annelids;
  • E724, Guide for Conducting Static Acute Toxicity Tests Starting with Embryos of Four Species of Saltwater Bivalve Molluscs;
  • E1022, Guide for Conducting Bioconcentration Tests with Fishes and Saltwater Bivalve Mollusks;
  • E1191, Guide for Conducting Life-Cycle Toxicity Tests with Saltwater Mysids;
  • E1218, Guide for Conducting Static Toxicity Tests with Microalgae;
  • E1241, Guide for Conducting Early Life-Stage Toxicity Tests with Fishes;
  • E1391, Guide for Collection, Storage, Characterization and Manipulation of Sediments for Toxicological Testing and for Selection of Samplers Used to Collect Benthic Invertebrates;
  • E1440, Guide for Acute Toxicity Test with the Rotifer Brachionus;
  • E1463, Guide for Conducting Static and Flow-Through Acute Toxicity Tests with Mysids from the West Coast of the United States;
  • E1498, Guide for Conducting Sexual Reproduction Tests with Seaweeds;
  • E1525, Guide for Designing Biological Tests with Sediments;
  • E1563, Guide for Conducting Static Acute Toxicity Tests with Echinoid Embryos [sea urchins and sand dollars];
  • E1611, Guide for Conducting Sediment Toxicity Tests with Polychaetous Annelids;
  • E1688, Guide for Determination of the Bioaccumulation of Sediment-Associated Contaminants by Benthic Invertebrates;
  • E1706, Test Method for Measuring the Toxicity of Sediment-Associated Contaminants with Freshwater Invertebrates;
  • E1849, Guide for Fish and Wildlife Incident Monitoring and Reporting;
  • E2122, Guide for Conducting In-Situ Field Bioassays with Caged Bivalves; and
  • E2317, Guide for Conducting Renewal Microplate-Based Life-Cycle Toxicity Tests with a Marine Meiobenthic Copepod.

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