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Sediments are a major repository for persistent aquatic contaminants, the availability of which cannot be determined by chemical analyses or field surveys alone. Sediment bioassays provide information on the toxicity of contaminated sediments by measuring the level of their effect on test organisms. Testing involves laboratory exposure of test species to field-collected sediments and can range from the use of whole organisms to individual cells. Exposure routes involve the use of whole sediments, sediment elutriates, or sediment extracts. Except in the case of extracts, sediments cannot be stored and must be tested shortly after collection. Testing methodologies developed to date include most major trophic levels. Measured test responses include acute lethal, sublethal, genotoxic/cytotoxic, and microbial activity measurements. Quality assurance/quality control procedures for collection, handling, and testing have been developed, and an interlaboratory calibration exercise has been successfully completed. Comparative testing of different techniques and routes of exposure indicates a high degree of robustness in the techniques tested to date.
bioassay, sediment, toxicity, marine pollution
Vice-president, E.V.S. Consultants, North Vancouver, British Columbia