SYMPOSIA PAPER Published: 01 January 1996

Bioassay-Based Risk Assessment of Complex Mixtures


The baseline risk assessment often plays an integral role in various decision-making processes at Superfund sites. The present study reports on risk characterizations prepared for seven complex mixtures using biological and chemical analysis. Three of the samples (A, B, and C) were complex mixtures of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) extracted from coal tar; while four samples (001, 002, 004 and 006) extracted from munitions-contaminated soil contained primarily nitroaromatic hydrocarbons. The chemical-based risk assessment ranked sample C as least toxic, while the risk associated with samples A and B was approximately equal. The microbial bioassay was in general agreement for the coal tar samples. The weighted activity of the coal tar extracts in Salmonella was 4,960 for sample C, and 162,000 and 206,000 for samples A and B, respectively. The bacterial mutagenicity of 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene contaminated soils exhibited an indirect correlation with chemical-based risk assessment. The aqueous extract of sample 004 induced 1,292 net revertants in Salmonella, while the estimated risk to ingestion and dermal adsorption (based on TNT content) was 2E-9. The data indicate that the chemical-based risk assessment accurately predicted the genotoxicity of the PAHs, while the accuracy of the risk assessment for munitions contaminated soils was limited due to the presence of metabolites of TNT degradation. The biological tests used in this research provide a valuable compliment to chemical analysis for characterizing the genotoxic risk of complex mixtures.

Author Information

Donnelly, KC
Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
Huebner, HJ
Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
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Developed by Committee: D18
Pages: 132–145
DOI: 10.1520/STP16022S
ISBN-EB: 978-0-8031-5326-4
ISBN-13: 978-0-8031-2000-6