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New ASTM International Standard to Play Integral Role in Study of Freshwater Mussels

Across North America, populations of freshwater mussels have fallen drastically over the last several years, to the point that more than 70 percent of native unionid mussel species are considered endangered, threatened, or of special concern. A new ASTM International standard, tentatively titled “Guide for Conducting Toxicity Tests with Freshwater Mussels” and currently under development as WK4734 by Committee E47 on Biological Effects and Environmental Fate, will be an integral part of an extensive collaborative study on identifying factors causing these declines.

Many factors have been cited as possibly contributing to declining freshwater mussel populations. “Habitat alteration, introduction of exotic species, over-utilization, disease, predation and pollution are all considered as potential contributing factors in the United States,” says Chris Ingersoll, research fisheries biologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Columbia Environmental Research Center.

There is currently a lack of consensus on which methods should be used to conduct toxicity tests on freshwater mussels with contaminants of concern in water or sediment. The purpose of the new guide, which is under the jurisdiction of Subcommittee E47.03 on Sediment Assessment and Toxicology, is to describe methods that can be used to conduct acute or chronic toxicity tests with early life stages (glochidia, juveniles) and adult life stages of freshwater mussels in water or sediment exposures. Also, the guide will establish specific test acceptability criteria that can be used to evaluate the quality of the organisms used in these toxicity tests. E47.03 is coordinating its work on the guide with Subcommittee E47.01 on Aquatic Assessment and Toxicology.

Subcommittee E47.03 has established a task group that includes representatives from the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Virginia Tech, Southwest Missouri State University, North Carolina State University and Oklahoma State University. Ingersoll says that the committee is actively seeking participation from any parties interested in working on the guide. “It would be great to expand this list of task group participants to other interested parties, for example, state agencies,” says Ingersoll.

In addition to the development of the new ASTM International guide and possibly other ASTM International standards, it is hoped that the collaborative study will result in refined methods for conducting toxicity tests with early life stages of freshwater mussels and evaluations of the toxicity of various contaminants of concern (e.g., ammonia, chlorine, and copper) on early life stages of freshwater mussels using acute and chronic exposures.

For further technical information, contact Christopher G. Ingersoll, Columbia Environmental Research Center, USGS, Columbia, Mo. (phone: 573/ 876-1819). Committee E47 meets Nov. 13, 2004, with the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in Portland, Ore., and April 17-21, 2005, during the April Committee Week in Reno, Nev. For membership or meeting details, contact Scott Orthey, ASTM International (phone: 610/832-9730). //

Copyright 2004, ASTM International