A New Interpretation of Avian and Mammalian Reproduction Toxicity Test Data in Ecological Risk Assessment
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The long-term risks of pesticides to wildlife in the EU currently are assessed by comparing the lowest no-observed-effect concentration (NOEC) determined from the suite of endpoints measured in existing avian and mammalian laboratory reproduction tests with estimated exposure concentrations by calculating Toxicity to Exposure Ratios (TERs). Regulatory authorities experience difficulties when assessing long-term risks because of the lack of accepted methods to improve the ecological realism of exposure and toxicity estimates and understand risks at a population level. This paper describes an approach for interpreting existing avian and mammalian toxicity test data that divides breeding cycles into several discrete phases and identifies specific test endpoints as indicators of direct pesticide effects possible at each phase. Based on the distribution of breeding initiation dates for a species of concern and the dates of pesticide applications, this approach compares the phase-specific toxicity endpoint with the expected pesticide exposure levels during each of the breeding phases. The fate of each breeding attempt is determined through a series of decision points. The cumulative reproductive response of individuals in a breeding population based on this decision framework provides a means of examining the estimated risks over the course of the breeding season and deriving an overall metric of the impact of the pesticide on reproduction. Research needed to further improve the approach is discussed.